Giro d’Italia Stage 5 Preview

A sprint stage. Yes there’s a climb of over a thousand metres to scale along the way but it’s featured in recent years and the stage has ended in a sprint so it’ll take a team or two to really apply themselves to change the outcome.

Yes We Kämna: a breakaway of 14 riders which swelled over time as more and more bridged across. Behind a crash caused by a race motorbike felled several including Simon Yates. Once the break hit the slopes of Etna it was quickly reduced thanks to an attack by Stefano Oldani but he was overhauled by Trek-Segafredo’s Juan Pedro Lopez. The Spaniard was just short of steam coming out of his ears as he grimaced his way into the lead but the high cadence showed he had the spin to win, only for Lennard Kämna to bridge across on the upper slopes. There was a brief discussion between the two and obviously it had to be the classic “I’ll let you win the stage if we stay clear because I’ll win pink”, and why not? It suited both with Lopez as the darting climber and Kämna as the junior Worlds TT wunderkind. One duly won the stage, the other takes the race lead.

Behind Sky Ineos rode in mountain train formation but not for long. Enough to see Tom Dumoulin and Vincenzo Nibali dropped, doubling Astana’s woes after Miguel Angel Lopez had quit the race earlier. But they eased up and a large group of the main GC contenders crossed the line together, minus outsiders like Guillaume Martin, Pavel Sivakov and Tobias Foss.

Lopez leads the race now and it’s ideal for all concerned, Trek-Segafredo are a half-Italian team and are delighted to have the maglia rosa especially as he might be able to hold on to it for a while in the mountains given he’s got almost two minutes’ lead on most of the GC contenders. Kämna at 39 seconds is intriguing, he’s riding very well at the moment so we’ll see what he can do in the GC contest; if not he’ll be confident about another stage win.

The Route: 174km and a probable sprint stage even if there’s a seaside start in Catania and a passage via the touristy town of Giardini Naxos before turning inland for the Portella Mandrazzi (Sella Mandrazzi for the locals) climb to over a thousand metres above sea level. That’s a lot but it’s a big ring climb – and also Vincenzo Nibali’s local training climb for many years so watch out for a shark attack – so it won’t eject the sprinters right away. Note it was climbed in 2020 too and on a similar stage with the start in Catania, it was won by Arnaud Démare and has featured in other years and seen a sprint finish after.

The Finish: a run into Messina, slightly down to the flamme rouge and then a left-hand bend with 800m to go before a straight run to the line.

The Contenders: Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step) won easily in Balatonfüred so who’d beg against him here? Well the Mandrazzi could pose him problems especially if rival teams turn up the heat. The problem is that there’s 100km from the top of the climb to the finish, it’d take a big effort to split the race and sustain it, think Sagan and Liquigas on the road to Albi in 2013 or Sagan and Bora-hansgrohe in 2020.

Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) was training in Sicily prior to the Giro and knows the finish today, although that didn’t help Guillaume Martin yesterday as he’d been living on the flanks for Etna for a couple of weeks.

Fernando Gaviria (UAE) was also close in Hungary but the downhill sprint won’t help, he and his bike just aren’t as aero as Cavendish.

Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) should be a touch less sore now and yes he can climb well but often on shorter ones. His train’s got its issues, Roger Kluge was part of the moto-induced crash yesterday.

Biniam Girmay (Intermarché) is a pick if the pace distresses the pure sprinters, he’s fast but more versatile on a hilly course. There’s no more Mathieu van der Poel or Mareczko debate for Alpecin-Fenix as the Italian was dropped early yesterday, it’s just whether he takes part or sit out the sprint thinking of other stages.

There’s a second wave of sprinters. Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain) doesn’t win often but once is enough. Giacomo Nizzolo (Israel) likewise although the sight of his leadout rider Rick Zabel going for the mountains jersey in Hungary was hardly a vote of confidence.

Mark Cavendish
Caleb Ewan, Biniam Girmay, Arnaud Démare
MvdP, Bauhaus

Weather: sunny and 20°C

TV: the finish is earlier than usual at 4.00pm CEST. The Mandrazzi climb is from 1.15pm.

45 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia Stage 5 Preview”

  1. Sean Kelly was quite dismissive of Ineos’ tactics yesterday, noting that the main effect was to distance Sivakov, reducing their future options to keep multiple riders in contention, while making very limited gains against genuine rivals. Taking Sivakov out of the picture could in essence be expensive when set against only managing to drop Dumoulin and Nibali, neither of whom was really a likely overall contender in any case.

    • I sort of support BEX so i am barracking for yates.
      So when i watched the highlights i was cheering on Ineous. Blew there team up and even had porte qho should be saved as a backup leader this early in the tour smashing himself at the top in what looked like substantial wind. Then carapaz sprinted for 7th place.

      Don’t know why they did it. But keep doing it.

      • They did a lot of work earlier on the flat(ter) section too, without too much help from other teams.
        My impression is that they won’t be able to strangle the race as they’ve done in the past.
        The terrain is too tough and the team doesn’t have the strength of the yesteryear.
        Which would mean that it comes down to the leaders duking it out.
        Yates v Carapaz, and then see whose TT is the strongest on the final day.

        • It was often much more than pure physical “strength”, rather a *political* one (direct bullying included when needed), and in fact the race wasn’t being “strangled” by means of too high a climbing pace, barring a handful of (key) occasions.

      • Losing Tulett to a mechanical was probably what caused them to use up Sivakov, I am sure it should have been the former doing the pulling instead of him. It is also probably the reason they decided to back off.

  2. I think it’s all been very boring so far. The stage 1 finish was okay I suppose. Etna failed to deliver much once more.

    I hope someone takes it on and sheds all the sprinters today.

    • Etna will never deliver in a major way, because it always comes so early in the race. Most contenders’ teams are still at full strength, it’s not steep enough to mitigate the effect of drafting, and it’s hard to see someone like Pog or Rog burning mega matches that early in the race to gain some marginal amount of time. Whilst, theoretically, a superstar could get a gap, the strength of the teams on the relatively gentle slopes would always favour a GC group finish.

      • Etna did deliver in a big way once. But of course it was stage 9 in 2011 and that was Contador in an edition of the race that everybody mostly wants to forget existed for a variety of reasons.

          • Changing that result was one of the most laughable things seen in the 2000s pro cycling – and we’ve seen quite a lot. One can find a meagre consolation of sort to later tragic events in the sheer fact of having Scarponi’s name engraved on the Trofeo Senza Fine, regardless of circumstances and well beyond any sporting meaning or all the normative stuff that it’s due to come along with competition (Scarponi himself wasn’t especially happy for that, but of course he was speaking precisely as a sportsman).

          • @hoh
            Guess you’re mixing up with Blockhaus 2017, also stage 9, and also featuring this year, although that’s a climb which virtually no spectator should complain about. In 2011 it’s hard to imagine Landa or Thomas competing for a GT, although the latter had already a decent GT experience by then.

        • …The shameful Crostis’ descent farce, a little preview of even more pathetic situations along those same lines in later years, from extreme weather protocol, all the way down to Tirreno’s fake-snows and then to directly not racing ’cause hey it’s raining, men!

          (Please note that I’m absolutely favourable to riders organising, having a say, being listened to, and ultimately… surviving. Only, the above wasn’t really about this, nor was it being done properly to assure that “the riders” as a collective were the actual subject acting)

          Still, during that Giro we also had a very fair number of great moments, as one can expect with Nibali and Contador riding.

          • Still, the 2011 was a tremendously interesting race. The most interesting GT that had absolutely zero mystery about GC, because one man so much above. But the Gardeccia stage was supreme. Unforgettable. And the Zoncolan and the Finestre of that year have also stayed on my mind. As Etna and Grossglockner and Tropea. Zomegnan’s vision was good.

    • I’m not a fan of Etna either. It’s a long drag into rather bleak scenery, perpetual cloud and seemingly a permanent headwind no matter which route they take. I’m sure there are many hilltop towns in Sicily that would provide a much more exciting finish.

    • There was a good battle for the stage and a couple of GC contenders were pruned, that’s probably all the race wanted. If Yates/Carapaz or someone else had soared away to take minutes everyone would be saying the race is over and complaining too, no?

      • Exactly!!! But cycling fans love to complain it’s too boring. Unless of course it isn’t and then they complain everyone is juiced up!

      • Agreed – we’re only 4 stages in it’s nicely poised. Having a few quality climbers in front of the main GC contenders provides some extra interest too. Also, the variety has been welcome: a tough uphill sprint, an unpredictable TT, a standard sprint stage and an attritional mountain stage.

      • I’m not saying I want the race to be blown up at this stage, just that I’m not keen on a 30km drag to the finish. I prefer the often technical uphill dashes you get quite often in the early stages of the Giro.

    • Here’s the mandatory “what a boring race” comment – obviously, bike racing isn’t game 7 of the stanley cup final – what’s sad is that some fans think that each stage race is a UFC match – you want non-stop battles.

      What wasn’t exciting about the Van der Poel win, or Cav’s, or today’s stage with Cav/Ewan battling to make it back? Even Kamna’s win was pretty exciting, the front group changed a few times.

  3. How strange to see Dumoulin lose so much time yesterday after his TT performance suggested strong form. Was he ill?

    Cavendish was by far the weakest of the sprinters yesterday falling well behind the gruppetto. If two or more sprinter’s teams combine they could surely distance him on the Mandrazzi and – as IR suggests – ride to exclude him from the sprint.

    And Yates was last in of yesterday’s GC group. Could that be the after effects of – yet another – moto incident?

    • Who knows what the affects are but he looked pretty easy on the climb and was sitting nice in the middle when i saw the main group on the highlights. Perhaps he judged that sprinting for the same time as everyone else was a waste of effort. Although in hindsight the last corner was slightly tricky in a big group going fast and being ahead of a potential fall may have been worth the effort.

  4. Small typo: Bauhaus (Bahrain)?

    I can see some sprinters’ teams combining to drop Cav, then hopefully a chase for a few dozen kilometres.

  5. I thought Girmay’s sprint the other day was slightly overlooked, he got himself boxed in but was right on the wheel with watts to spare. If he gets his positioning right he’s a genuine threat to Cavendish, Ewan and Demare.

      • Yeah, a slight drag would definitely benefit him, but if he could get out of the draft all* it takes is half a dozen pedal stokes at full gas if he’s relatively fresh, and the others are tiring.

        *it’s a lot easier on my sofa, admittedly.

  6. Agree that Ineos’ tactics seemed a bit strange, why go for that effort so that Richard Carapaz can try, unsuccessfully, to grab a second or two at the end. They were never going to drop serious rivals. Simon Yates a bit odd too, he & the team looked good on the climb but his habit of hanging around the back of the peloton is asking for trouble. He was caught up in a crash yesterday, another ill timed crash or mechanical and he could loose minutes. Agree with Inrng that a left field GC challenge from Leonard Kämna could be on the cards, Bora probably have a team that could support a bid.

    Sad about Tom Dumoulin, guess we have to accept that the GC contender disappeared as a result of the crash in 2019 on the outskirts of Rome.

    Not convinced about how well Cav is climbing, he was dropped by the groupetto yesterday and the QS group was last to come in before the cut off (I believe some riders didnt make it??). Perhaps it was just trying to minimise the energy expended but I suspect this will all have been noted by others and there will be a big effort by one or more teams to put him in trouble today. Also wonder if he can make it past Blockhaus.

    • Cav got dropped very early in the frenetic opening while the break went; got back on but was then dropped near the top of the long opening climb; got back on then was dropped definitively on Etna. He looked like he was pedalling squares near the top of the opening lump desperately trying to maintain contact over the top, while Morkov looked very fluid in pacing him.

      Of course, with Cav, everything is possible; and last year’s Tour de France was a daily battle with the time limit, but he doesn’t look to be climbing well. Having said that, Caleb Ewan didn’t look much better yesterday, though in his case maybe there is some residual stiffness from his opening day crash?

      • I suspect that some of the details I read & heard last night were a bit exaggerated. It seems the QS group arrived well within the time limit, even if they were last it makes no odds. It was also the first day after a rest / travel day which can give strange results (maybe that was the Tom Dumoulin issue)

  7. In 2018 Yates had to battle for seconds on the climbs to offset Dumoulin’s obvious advantage in the TTs. This time he has no TT specialist left in contention so in theory could defend in the mountains and still win GC. That’s the very simplistic theory though he still needs some time back on Kamna who has both form and a very capable team.

  8. Early days I know but could Kamna be a serious threat? Seems to be in great form and can’t see him losing much time in the mountains.

  9. Cav and Quickstep are the Masters of managing the time limit…finishing a minute inside it or 30 minutes inside it…who will have the fresher legs?

    Thursdays stage is a more traditional Sprinters stage, pan flat, I expect Cav to hold himself back for tomorrow and let the Young Pretenders add some fatigue to their legs today.

  10. Impressive again by Bora and Trek must be elated. Dumoulin’s climbing days are seemingly over which will reduce the stress on the climbing specialists. The Ineos train duely returned, though if Porte has one of his bad days, Carapaz could possibly be quickly isolated. Today’s big question, is how is Yates’ knee? Sprinters are gonna sprint, so Trek might have a easy day defending the jersey as sprint teams bring back the break.

  11. Who am I to disagree with the great man, Kelly.
    BUT I suggest the purpose of the INEOS effort was to make sure some possible winners will feel the accumalative effect of the constant pace up Etna, and elsewhere in the next two weeks. Three possible outside winners were distanced in just this one stage and the accumalative effort on others will require a payback. Carapaz is known to maintain and improve form over a three week grand tour.

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