Giro d’Italia: André Greipel of Lotto Soudal has taken out stage 5 of the Giro d’Italia in convincing fashion, finishing several bike lengths ahead of FDJ’s Arnaud Démare and Bardiani-CSF’s Sonny Colbrelli.
It comes as the German’s fourth career Giro stage victory, and his first in this year’s edition of the race, after previously finishing fourth on stage 3. The win also means that he has won at least one stage in each of the last ten Grand Tours he has started.
Earlier in the stage, Lotto Soudal worked hard at the head of the peloton to bring back the day’s breakaway. Although the team used up valuable riders in the process, including Jelle Vanendert, Tim Wellens and Lars Bak, they were able to use their remaining riders to help position Greipel well going into the technical corners and fast downhill sections, and were able to rely on Jurgen Roelandts to provide an exceptional leadout for Greipel in the closing few kilometres.
How it unfolded
At just over 30 kilometres into the 233 kilometre long stage, Daniel Oss of BMC, Amets Txurruka of Orica-GreenEDGE, Pavel Brutt of Tinkoff and Alexander Foliforov of Gazprom-Rusvelo were able to break free after the summit of the only categorised climb of the day. Their lead stretched out to nearly seven minutes, with Txurruka becoming the virtual leader in the general classification, which wasn’t, however, of too much concern to Tom Dumoulin’s Giant-Alpecin team. Despite a crash on a downhill section, Oss was able to re-join his breakaway companions and contribute to the pacemaking. However by the final 40 kilometres, the group’s advantage had been significantly reduced to less than two minutes, largely due to the work of teams such as Lotto Soudal and Trek-Segafredo back in the peloton.
By the time the quartet hit the final cobbled sector for the first time, they had only 10 seconds up their sleeve, and were ultimately caught within the final 7 kilometres, leaving the sprinters’ teams to come to the front to jostle for position heading into the closing kilometres.
Greipel’s leadout train had been substantially depleted due to the amount of work the team had put in earlier in the race. The sole responsibility of guiding Greipel to the finish ultimately came down to Jurgen Roelands. The Belgian provided a formidable leadout for his teammate, single-handedly leading the bunch from the final five kilometres before swinging off before the last kilometre. Despite losing some ground to the Lampre-Merida and FDJ sprint trains, Greipel was able to take advantage of a drop in speed in the final few hundred metres and work his way to the front, subsequently opening up a large gap as he made his way solo along the uphill drag to the finish line. He finished several bike lengths in front of fellow stage favourites Arnaud Démare of FDJ and Sonny Colbrelli of Bardiani-CSF.
Noticeably absent from the bunch sprint in Benevento was Etixx – Quick-Step’s Marcel Kittel. The undulating parcours was evidently much harder than it appeared on paper, taking its toll on several riders, including Kittel. Although earmarked as a good possibility to take his third Giro win this year, he found the 233 kilometre-long stage’s succession of uncategorised climbs and the cobbled finishing circuit that little bit too demanding. However, the German does hold onto the points classification jersey, while Italian Damiano Cunego of Nippo-Vini Fantini retains his lead in the mountains classification after taking maximum points on the only categorised climb of the day.
Tom Dumoulin remains the leader of the general classification, with second-placed Bob Jungels taking four seconds off his deficit to the Dutchman, thanks to finishing fourth on the stage, ahead of a split pack. He now trails Dumoulin by 16 seconds going into Stage 6, with Diego Ulissi currently third, at 20 seconds behind.
Tomorrow’s stage takes the riders 157 kilometres from Ponte to Roccaraso, and features the race’s first uphill finish. While admittedly not difficult enough to cause significant damage in the general classification standings, it has the potential to create some selections, and also provides an opportunity for the overall contenders to test their climbing legs.