Giro Stage 5 Preview

Day 3 of sprint finishes with a hill before, today’s variety is the climb is longer but it is further from the finish in the walled city of Lucca.

Milan without Sanremo: Filippo Ganna rolled across to the day’s breakaway trio and seemingly startling them as they clocked his arrival. Minutes later he, or the team car, thought better of it and he left them to it.

Away again for the day Lilian Calmejane collected some mountain points, enough to take the mountains jersey on loan. But not lead the competition because he’s still behind Pogačar on points. Perhaps in this age that’s worth settling for? In his own words yes, the publicity is valuable for his team he told Eurosport. Job done after the climb he sat up for a jacket for the wet descent while companions Stefan De Bod and Franciso Munoz carried on to the finish.

Embed from Getty Images

On the same descent into Savona Biniam Girmay crashed twice and quit the race. He looked sore after the first fall, the last rider to get going and then slid out again on another bend.

Filippo Ganna attacked on the Capo Mele. He’s good over four kilometres but holding off the whole bunch on a wide open road was too much and he was pursued by Italian track team colleague Simone Consonni, who then led-out his colleague and track team mate Jonathan Milan.

Milan launched another raging sprint. In recent years we’ve seen riders getting lower in a bid to make themselves more aerodynamic, head down below the shoulders. Not Milan the muscleman, he is all brute force, head bobbing, arms flexing, his front wheel weaving left and right, it looks wild like any minute a crank is going to snap or his handlebars will bend. Yet it’s also subtle, the very slight wobble in the front wheel might have made riders hesitate about passing, this time Bauhaus to the right and while Groves was closing he couldn’t close. Il Biondo di Buja took his second Giro stage after last year’s triumph.

The Route: what’s Italian for déjà vu? After yesterday’s Sanremo redux some more familiar roads with the Passo de Bracco, this time taken in the opposite direction to the 2023 Giro and then past Carrara – more below – and to Camaiore which has its own pro race.

The Montemagno climb is gentle and on wide roads.

The Finish: flat but not without challenges, the finale has been designed with help from local Alessandro Petacchi. First come the cobbles, urban pavé but they’ll rattle and then the course spits the riders out onto to the road that encircles Lucca’s walled city. It’s all big boulevards.

The Contenders: the flattest finish so far. Who wants to bet against Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek)? He was the fastest yesterday and convincingly powerful two days ago too although Tim Merlier (Soudal-Quickstep) won and he’ll find today easier with the run to the finish. Still many others will fancy their chances, Olav Kooij (Visma-LAB) is regular, Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) is up there and Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain) close too. Fabio Jakobsen (DSM Firmenich-Post NL) should be fast but the showing yesterday in the hills is a concern as it’s not just gravity but form in general while Caleb Ewan (Jayco) seems to be finding his sprint train not to his liking.

Kooij, Merlier, Groves
Bauhaus, Jakobsen, Ewan

Weather: sunny and a pleasant 23°C with a light tailwind for much of the stage.

TV: KM0 is at 1.00pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. Tune in for the Montemagno climb by 4.40pm.

Postcard from Carrara
Italy is a big exporter of marble and the Tuscan region here uses plenty, whether palatial buildings, ornamental statues or just kitchen counters. It’s because it produces plenty and you can see it from afar, a literal mountain of marble.

There’s a bike race to celebrate it, the Gran Premio Industrie del Marmo, as in the “Marble Industry GP”. Held in May – the next edition is in 10 days – it’s one of the top races on the Italian Under-23 calendar and many a top racer has taken part, in recent years the likes of Caleb Ewan, Luke Rowe, Matteo Sobrero and Patrick Gamper have stepped on the podium on their path to greater things.

The GP Marmo isn’t loosely connected to the industry, it rides past many stone works where blocks of marble the size of a bus are waiting to be cut and carved and parts of the course are white with dust.

The race goes to the next level though as it rides through the quarries. The promotional picture illustrates this. Further still it takes a long tunnel between quarries, it has lighting but it’s narrow and slathered with a damp paste. Even if the course is original the race is tough and very much not a circus show. Did the Giro miss a trick today? Maybe as mid-stage the tunnel would be feasible but all the more reason to look out for the U23 event.

66 thoughts on “Giro Stage 5 Preview”

  1. I have to say: very astute commentary in the preview yesterday on the differences between the stage 3 and 4 finishes. The wide road and fast drive into the climb seemed to make all the difference between a Ganna win and a bunch sprint. Just as predicted.

    • It’s an excellent blog. Although many say thank you regularly it’s probably still not enough.

      Between this, cycling podcast, gcn and a few others I can’t imagine ever wanting or needing anything more to sate my cycling needs, outside of the multiple daily hours spent watching… although live graphics of on screen riders power, heart, speed outputs would be nice one day.

  2. It’s just beggars belief how you can create such an unexciting course on the terrain between Genoa and Lucca. Absolutely ridiculous.

    • I thought the coastal route looked absolutely stunning. If part of the purpose of the race is to sell Italy, the course designers did a great job.

    • Larry T, believes – rightly or wrongly (and in my opinion quite wrongly) – that he has “been kicked-off /…/probably because when the blog publisher implied that cycling equipment could make the difference between winning and losing, Ol’ Zio let him have it, saying if he thought there was something he could buy at a bike shop that would make that difference, he was either delusional or a shill for the bike biz. That was that!”

      PS I think it´s a shame that he got so worked up over nothing; the comments section would be richer for his voice and opinions (if only he wasn´t so darn keen to get on the high horse).

      • Is Zio Lorenzo his alter ego?!

        It doesn’t feel like a real Giro without Larry zealously defending the honour of Italian TV production.

        • EMG is providing TV, not RAI. My issue this year is the terrible RAI coverage – starting with the presentation ceremony – the RAI commentators talked over the entire thing! Italian is challenging enough for me without dueling between the official RCS announcers and the RAI TV crew.
          Regarding EMG vs RAI we’ll have to wait for some really grim weather to see just how superior their technology is…in most cases I think it was a clever director switching to something else when the live video crapped-out due to weather vs RAI just switching to a fixed camera at the finish where nothing was happening?

          • That is the single most pathetic reply an offended mediocrity can offer to criticism, justified or not, Larry. Take a deep breath and listen to how you sound to adults. If you can’t take criticism don’t offer content.

          • Steve, Isn’t that what I implied to Tom? I’d like to read his blog. My guess is he doesn’t have one, just like the guy who criticized the Giro route doesn’t design cycling routes. It’s always easy for “keyboard lions” to offer scathing opinions based on pretty much zero knowledge on what is involved or in comparison to their own work.
            When it comes to critique I’ll dish it out AND take it and put my real name on my comments, but try to be civil about it, OK?

        • All the above bullying would look greatly better when fully deleted as it adds literally nothing. Personal opinion. I understand that it’s a shame inrng would have to spend time and attention to do that.

      • I’ll stay off the horse and let Gabriele argue my points since so far he’s been doing a great job.
        If he misses something I can always weigh-in…like maybe about sprinting. Am I the only one who wonders how much allowing 60 tooth chainrings and 10 tooth cogs is changing sprinting? Anyone who waded through my blog post you linked-to knows my opinion on this.
        W Il Giro! Just got back home after seeing the first 3 stages live in-person and have one other comment – am I the only one who wonders why it almost seems this year it’s RCS vs RAI? So far IMHO RAI is doing a terrible job with La Corsa Rosa 2024. The minute Eurosport coverage starts I’m switching to Luca and Magro!

        • Hey Larry, always enjoy your posts. Don’t take the criticism to heart, none of this really matters anyway. I’ve said some stupid stuff here in the last few days but the comments here are richer for having you even if not everyone agrees day in, day out.

          • Thanks. I’ll try to add to the conversation more than rag on obviously stupid comments like:
            “It’s just beggars belief how you can create such an unexciting course on the terrain between Genoa and Lucca. Absolutely ridiculous.”
            Having designed and produced challenging cycling tours in Italy for 2 decades (including a route that covered some of today’s) comments like those I’ll just try to ignore as they remind me of the times a client would get lost and when we’d finally find them, go on to tell us how great the (wrong) route they’d ridden was in comparison to the one we’d mapped!
            They had zero idea of what the intended route was like and were clueless as to whether we’d ridden/driven “their” route and rejected it in favor of the one we chose.
            That’s the kind of stuff I don’t miss now that we’re out of the biz!!
            Back home in Sicily now after seeing the first 3 stages live, in-person.
            W Il Giro! 🙂

        • Good points in that blog entry posted by Thursday (?) above, Larry.

          I don’t have much love to share for ES commentators, but you’re right in that Fabretti and De Luca at RAI have a destroyer approach against RCS, which is sort of mad. Suspect they don’t actually like cycling, especially the former. OTOH, having Cassani back is great, Rizzato is usually very good in his role and the rest of the staff isn’t bad, either (I don’t like much Genovesi, but perhaps it’s my literary background surfacing with crashing comparisons).

          • I watched RAI coverage for stage 5 as my wife needed the streaming bandwidth for a project and must admit the Pancani/Cassani + Borgata (nd the other guy on the moto whose name escapes me) wasn’t half bad.
            What I don’t like is the rest of it – the pre/post race stuff, pretty much the stuff you can’t really get via Eurosport. But it’s still like xmas/my birthday/circus comes to town when the Giro comes round so my complaints are pretty minor.
            W Il Giro!

        • It just beggars belief how you can create such an unexciting course on the terrain between Genoa and Lucca. Absolutely ridiculous.

  3. Just when I think an hierarchy of sprinters is emerging, it seems to collapse. I suppose on paper Jakobsen and Philipsen sit at the top of the pile, but in practice it doesn’t always work out like that. Lots of people are able to stake their claim as the fastest.

    Is it rose tinted specs that is making me think “in the past” there was always one or two top-dogs?

    • We come from an age where the concept itself of pure sprinter was nurtured more than ever, or even “invented”, in a sense, while at the same time (hard to say what’s cause and what’s consequence) we had the two best ever athletes in this specific specialty, maybe three or four even, in just a couple of decades. And they also had rivals with a very close technical level.
      Then things changed and they’ve been going in the opposite direction from *both* POVs in recent years, although in this case the (natural) decline in average technical level came first, I believe.

      • What is this technical level we are talking about here? Is it that of the lead-out men, that of the sprinters or that of the whole sprint train?

        And why should we see the decline as natural?

        • A mix of it all which isn’t sheer wattage (also part of it). Navigating the sprint, choosing timing, choosing wheels, working on your effort distribution, building up your team. «Natural decline» as in «regression to the mean».

          • Goes to my point about gearing. Is sprinting entering an era of pure strength/power vs the old “fast-twitch muscle” idea of turning a big (but not 56 X 10?) gear over really, really fast? Milan looks like a monster, kind of makes Super Mario look skinny in comparison. Finally (again) does going 70 kph up to the finish line really make anything more exciting for the spectators than 50 kph, unless you’re one of those who’d like to see them race through hoops of fire?

      • Yes, this is a good point. We’ve possibly just exited the ‘golden age’ of pure sprinting (whatever that could mean), and we’re returning to the mean now. And having Cavendish/Griepel/Kittel and their accomplished dedicated teams come so close behind Cipo, Petacchi etc makes it seem as if sprinting was ever the same. But of course it wasn’t. Yes, perhaps it was only invented in these recent times.

        Hoping the early stages of today’s parcours sets us up for a bigger breakaway. There are a few teams who may show increasing levels of interest in a proper break – Intermarche are one.

    • Something’s up with Jakobsen as while he’s always been a sprinter for the flat finishes he’s being dropped on climbs he’d normally cope with. If it’s just a lack of condition this can explain why he’s a bit behind in the sprints too; in UAE and Paris-Nice the talk was more his train needed work.

  4. The way chasers who had sat longer in the bunch just bounced back when sprinting uphill trying to grasp Ganna’s wheel was a spectacle in itself, often the sheer speed of the first jump, a sort of little sprint, made you think Ganna was at reach, only the chasers could just come agonisingly close yet irremediably some metres too far before exploding.
    Consonni and Milan, too, made something which was really impressive. Nearly 2K watts of “instant” top power for Milan, and well over 1,600w for 20s (which do last sooo much when holding that wattage).

  5. The Milan – Consonni duo showed in March at TA that they were the guys to beat. Milan was a bit of a rough diamond last year, but now he’s polished up and experienced so this year’s man. A good lead out man is always a joy to watch too.
    Sprinters though seem to have a life time at the top that’s getting shorter before the next top guy turns up. A sign of the strain to be top dog, maybe.

    • Milan and Philipsen not included in what I’m saying here, obviously (more time needed) but I think it’s just the Gaussian’s belly… lower average level, more riders closer between them in terms of skills and potential, so external factors of every kind (being hired by Quickstep, for example) prevail over supposed “abstract” given talent in bringing you on top of the rest. On the one hand, you see in many TDF several different bunch sprint winners (not last edition, which anyway had a poor sprinting level in terms of depth and width), OTOH as soon as anybody gets the stars aligned he becomes the best of the world… until a few months later stars aren’t aligned anymore.

  6. Ewan complaining “we don’t have a team for the sprints” seems both unwise (how to demotivate teammates and irritate management) and with Mezgec, Walscheid and Hepburn not wholly justified. I can understand his frustration but still. Maybe he’ll win today and earn forgiveness.

    • He’s a rider, like many, who needs a good deal of support and encouragement, everything to go there way so when we hear open criticism like this it’s not encouraging for his chances.

      Plus for any sprinter it’s not easy if you’re used to winning often and suddenly find you’re not.

      • He seems a guy who can only win if everything goes-to-plan…and even then he can f__k it up. I wonder if he just can’t turn the kind of gear that Milan, etc. are using these daze? IMHO sprinting is changing due to this…and not for the better.
        Who cares if they’re going 50 kph or 70 kph? But sprinting at 70 is far more dangerous when something goes why not put limits on gearing like they do (or used to) with junior racers?

        • I’d like Ewan to have won one Milan San Remo, shame it never came off as he really trained perfectly it seemed for it a few years ago.

        • Even with “gearing”, Why do you think sprinters could not train for very high cadences? My casual observation is track sprinters seem to handle 140+ cadences OK. I recall seeing some 4km world championship team pursuits on track, and even their cadence seemed 130-140.
          (I’m blessed with living within 10 miles of an indoor velodrome in USA. It’s periodically used for UCI events.

          • The fact remains that for any given cadence the speed is governed by the gearing. So lower gearing would limit the speed they could attain, which may well be safer when things go wrong.

  7. I’d love if the sprint stages were half the length they are. All I want to know is an ETA for the last 10 km. No interest in watching a boring long stage where breakaways have no hope of surviving.
    I can’t wait for the mountains.
    I was looking at Lund Andresen, if he had a train I think he’d be dangerous in the sprints. He’s only 21 but looks ready to contend against the best.

    • The romance of the sport is tangled up in the hope of survival. There is romance in the futile toiling against expectation, and romance in the rare instances those expectations are overcome. All played out over hours, across a whole landscape.

      But then I love test cricket, so my judgement is surely in favour of slow sport…

      • +1
        And whatismore, some of it is dynamically functional, not necessarily exciting in itself. You need a break to force a given pace on the bunch, and the quality of the break will determine the nature and distribution of efforts, hence the sort of race you get in the last few kms.

        A bit like the offside rule in football. People who aren’t fans and have a fresh look of sort on it find it anticlimatic, confuse, frustrating, boring. But it’s needed as a functional element to have better matches played as an overall. Expert fans soon learn to appreciate what they can now understand about how it is executed. Which doesn’t mean that it can occasionally apparently ‘spoil’ long parts of a match which become boring.

    • Big slow sport fan & test cricket fan JV so +1, enjoyed reading that, although hasn’t Bazball just radically changed what we know and love a little bit like the big6 in cycling?

      I’ve spent the past year wondering why both sports and many others have suddenly and concurrently evolved so dramatically and what’s that’s done to my own fandom – as I’ve gone from sleepily watching my life dwindle away to the backdrop of equally sleepy televised sport to suddenly wanting more – not from life, just sport.

      & Jim – watch out or you’ll get Gabriele’d if you’re not careful! Check yesterday’s comments for the regular ‘you can switch on for the last ten minutes’ brigade as if that makes any real sense whatsoever? I don’t agree necessarily that we should shorten stages as there’s so much more involved than just that (as Gabriele correctly pointed out yesterday it won’t alone create any extra interest) but I do think if you told pretty much any other fan of any other sport they should ‘only watch for the last ten minutes’ they’d think you were insane. Some will say that’s what makes cycling special but it’s not crazy to disagree.

      • We’ll wait and see on the permanence of Bazball… Enjoyable, but notable that when it has been overcome it has been done by sides willing to wait it out, or undone by an England side unwilling to wait when that has been the best course of action.

        But this is a cycling blog, so the last thing I’ll say is that futility and vanishingly small amounts of hope (as an England fan) have shaped my experience of cricket. Perhaps this makes me sympathetic towards doomed breakaways!

        • Previously @RVV24 “At some point Pog will experience the misery of life and be hollow and depressed like the rest of us, happy to let him play to the cameras until the grind of time and pointlessness of day to day existence dawns.”
          and today: “I’ve gone from sleepily watching my life dwindle away to the backdrop of equally sleepy televised sport to suddenly wanting more – not from life, just sport.”

      • @oldDAVE
        A short stage won’t create extra interest as such, full stop. That’s just nonsense, as I and others said. Do people seriously believe that 2 hours of flat boredom are fine just because it’s not 4 hours?
        People might ask for a criterium stage with track rules like a points race, and it would probably need to be short, but it’s not that “short” is a value or an objective as such, if it’s bad. Check again the “bad restaurant” jokes. It can be a consequence of a specific format, of course, just as ITTs aren’t as long as mass start stages (though soon normal stages might become shorter than old ITTs…).
        People might want a supereasy superflat supershort stage to discover who the New Cheetah is. Fine, from time to time (this could be debated, too, but let’s promote diversity). But it won’t be any less boring than the same format on a longer distance.

        Others key aspects worth noticing.

        GTs are 21 days more or less in a row. The event isn’t obviously the single stage as such. The “race” is actually the, say, “Giro d’Italia” while the parts are called “stages”. That offers more than a hint to understand how we should take it.
        In fact, you might be aware that Classics are very different (most of them, ahem, but even in the case of Sanremo it makes perfect sense to watch some 40 minutes and you’d better watch 20 minutes at the very least). When the cycling event is one-day long, I happened more than once in recent years to feel compelled to watch it as a whole even if I hadn’t precisely decided to do so. But it also happened to me on some stages of a GT. OTOH I suffered more than once from watching the full 90 more minutes of a football match which wasn’t worth for a single one. That’s why football fans love highlights, which is precisey watching the short part which you’ll know in advance to be interesting. Not to speak of F1. That said, even in Classics there are ahem different stages, in the sense of “steps or periods in a process of development” which are less probable to be entertaining.

        The management of time in cycling is highly specific and is indeed one of the part you must learn to manage and adapt to as a fan, finding what’s the best balance for you. The sort of emotions or show which you need, the right cocktail, how much time is it available for you. There’s nothing wrong or strange in a mature “use” of the sport.

        By the way, I know loads of F1 fans who watched the first laps and then decided if they go on watching or have a nap depending on what was happening (past tense as I know nothing about F1 anymore since some years ago, when audience dropped so it’s now way harder to find F1 fans in Spain or Italy). I know loads of basket fans who from time to time end up watching only the last quarter or the first half etc. (out of necessity, i.e., time costraints, of course). Even professional players and coaches! And I even know tennis fans who don’t even watch a full match, sometimes, including big semifinals! Crrrrrrazy!

        Finally, and more important than anything else said above, I’d kindly ask to those participating in this debate a short recap of the 2022 Giro, the one won by Hindley.

        • Blimey Gabriele, you take mansplaining to dizzy heights! I think we’d really hit it off at a party, I often find people wandering off from me once I’ve bored them sideways.

          I would point out that you’ve missed me writing I do *not* agree on shortening stages and referenced, complimentarily, your argument yesterday in the above, but really what’s the point? I have sleep debt to catch up on so will enjoy rereading your joyous rants alongside my equally tedious musings this evening and try in future to incite less conflict in this comments section.

          • Humm, sorry, in fact I acknowledge that I should’t have started addressing the above to you. It happened by accident when I began writing it as a reply, originally focussed on the idea that other sports exclude – or not – partial watching, but it soon changed to more general reflections, most of which are indeed not related to your personal arguments, just the same subject.
            Sorry for that.

            Ps Mansplaining is dependant on gender and reverted relationship of respective knowledge on a subject. The above, or this lines, are just general didacting pedantry

  8. Merlier seemed to struggle with his positioning yesterday – he mentioned in his post race interview that something happened which almost forced him into the barriers, which then resulted in him being too far from the front – and so he started his sprint very early and from a long way back, meaning he never got to the front…with better positioning today, I think he might have the beating of Milan in pure speed…

    • Now we can finally agree!
      As JV pointed out above, this emotional finale makes other duller parts of the race worth to be endured. And precisely because it wasn’t obvious, quite the other way around. Especially happy for Cofidis.

      The strategical arm wrestling between sprinters’ teams makes sense only within the broader context, and the narrative flows through different days.

      Fun fact, look who were beat by Welsford at Hongrie, both recently named here directly or… by genealogy.


      The Giro is really keeping a high standard, but until this point it was indeed possible to expect something like this in advance (even that these sprint stages had been designed well). Yet the route was exploited at its best, kudos to riders and teams.

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