Arnaud Démare (Grouapma-FDJ) sprinted to victory in the fifth stage of the Giro d’Italia, the Frenchman proving his speed in the final dash to the line.
Démare had been dropped earlier in the race on the climb up Portella Mandrazi, but he managed to get back into contention through the help of his Groupama-FDJ teammates. The team perfectly lead Démare out, keeping him away from trouble in the final corner and allowing him a free run to the line.
Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) crossed the line extremely frustrated, banging his handlebars in anger as he seemingly couldn’t select a higher gear to give him the power he needed in the closing stages. The Colombian looked positioned to launch off the back of Démare’s wheel, but couldn’t get past the Frenchman, as he instead finished second.
Meanwhile, Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) were both missing from the final sprint though. Having fallen too far back on the 20km climb midway through the race, they and their teams couldn’t match the tempo at the head of the peloton as they successfully tried to fend off the two fast men.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Stage five of the Giro d’Italia featured a 172km flat stage from Catania to Messina, though riders did have to face a 19.6km climb at an average gradient of Portella Mandrazi midway through, meaning it wasn’t entirely flat.
Jaakko Hänninen (AG2R Citroën), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè), Mattia Bais (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli), Filippo Tagliani (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli) and Mirco Maestri (Eolo-Kometa) created a small gap early in the race, with Tagliani winning the first intermediate sprint at the foot of the Portella Mandrazi.
The breakaway managed to maintain their lead, but with 67km to go, after descending the mountain and reaching the flat roads of Sicily, they were caught as the big hitters started to prepare for the final moments of the race.
Mark Cavendish, Caleb Ewan, and Arnaud Démare were all dropped by the peloton up the Portella Mandrazi ascent. Five Quick-Step riders had to drop back to help Cavendish get back into contention, the gap fluctuating between two and five minutes to the peloton.
Démare managed to catch back up to the main group, while Ewan also needed help from his Lotto-Soudal team-mates as he sat a further couple of minutes behind Cavendish.
Clearly, the peloton were riding hard to try and keep the Manxman out of contention for the likely final sprint, with UAE Team Emirates offering the most impetuous to help their own sprinter, Fernando Gaviria in the closing stages. The pace got so fast, in fact, that both Quick-Step and Lotto-Soudal gave up on the chase, easing up with around 40km still to go.
Ben Swift (Ineos Grenadiers) won the second intermediate sprint of the day to take the three seconds, while João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) came second and Romain Bardet (Team DSM) third.
With Cavendish and Ewan calling off their chase, the pace in the peloton became more steady. Riders started jostling for position as each team wanted to get to the front of the pack and control the group, causing the peloton to bunch together despite the pace increasing to 60kmh.
The final turn at 800m to go proved a key pinch point, a tight turn causing the riders at the front to steal a march at the head of the pack heading into the final sprint. GC riders attempted to get to the front of the peloton at this point, sensibly putting the effort in in order to avoid any potential crashes – fortunately, there wasn’t one.
Groupama-FDJ produced the perfect lead out from thereon in, the team paving a clear path for Arnaud Démare to launch off of with a couple of hundred metres to go. At one point, though, it seemed as if Gaviria was going to be able to pass the Frenchman, but he couldn’t seem to select a high enough gear to give him the power he needed to take first. Banging on his handlebars while crossing the line, Gaviria seemed completely frustrated.
Giacomo Nizzolo (Israel-Premier Tech) took the final step of the stage five podium.
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), tipped as an outside pre-race favourite, could only cross the line 78th, while Cavendish and co. finished a full 11-57 back from the front of the race.
GIRO D’ITALIA, STAGE FIVE: CATANIA TO MESSINA (172KM)
1. Arnaud (Fra) Grouapma-FDJ, in 4-03-56
2. Fernando Gaviria (Col) UAE Team Emirates, at same time
3. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Israel-Premier Tech
4. Davide Ballerini (Ita) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl
5. Biniam Girmay (Eri) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
6. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bahrain-Victorious
7. Alberto Dainese (Ita) Team DSM
8. Natnael Tesfatsion (Eri) Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli
9. Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
10. Simone Consonni (Ita) Cofidis
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE FIVE
1. Juan Pedro López (Spa) Trek-Segafredo, in 18-21-03
2. Lennard Kämna (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 39s
3. Rein Taaramäe (Est) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, at 58s
4. Simon Yates (GBr) BikeExchange-Jayco, at 1-42
5. Mauri Vansevenant (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 1-47
6. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-55
7. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-58
8. Pello Bilbao (Spa) Bahrain-Victorious, at 2-00
9. Richie Porte (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers, at 2-04
10. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at 2-06