Giro D'Italia 2018: Stage 5 - Agrigento to Santa Nifa (153 kms)

Day 2 on Sicilian roads, after an amazing day yesterday and a "make or break" stage tomorrow at Mount Etna. A lot was on the line today as the riders tackled the shortest "real" stage of the Giro, a 153 km jaunt from Agrigento to Santa Nifa.

From the commentary, I gathered that the teams had a hard time driving up to Agrigento last night, with bad roads and traffic jams and had resulted in late-dinners and late massages. But luckily, today's stage was shorter and hence, started a bit late and so all was good.

Well, good for most people. Chris Froome and Team Sky haven't been having a good Giro so far. Froomey got caught in the crash yesterday and lost 17", putting him over a minute behind Rohan Dennis and Tom Dumoulin. Now yes, it is a 3 week long Tour and you can't win it in the 1st week, but you can lose it the 1st week. For old cycling fans, you might remember 1999 Tour De France and how Alex Zulle had crashed in the 1st week of the race during the passage du gois, lost time on Lance Armstrong and even though Armstrong rode brilliantly to win that year(see, how ridiculous that looks? sorry for my sarcasm, but it just gets on my nerves), Zulle losing time in the 1st week had a deep impact.

I think more would be decided tomorrow at Etna, we'll find out if Dennis is good enough to defend his Maglia Rosa, if Dumoulin is in top form (he sure looks leaner than last year) and if Froome's run so far has been purely because of bad luck or if there's some bad form too.

But today wasn't easy either. Even though the finish was not that punchy like yesterday, but as it was an uphill finish, it was going to be decisive.

And it was not a gentle day, 4 categorised climbs : 2.6km at 4%, 7.5km at 3.8% and 5.8km at 4.4% & a total of 2206 meters climbing. So ruling out pure sprinters like Sam Bennett (after an impressive performance yesterday) would be wrong.

The 4 men forming today's breakaway: Ryan Mullen (Trek-Segafredo) Laurent Didier (Trek-Segafredo) Eugert Zhupa (Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia) & Andrea Vendrame (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) did an impressive attack, riding at 54.9 kmph (Avg. power 420 watts).

Image courtsey: Velon CC Instagram

They were helped by the fact that the peloton was taking it easy today, riding at a pedestrian 35 kmph. They quickly gained a 5:30 minute gap with 30k of racing done. At this point, we have to remember that yesterday's winner Tim Wellens is just 19" down on the leader and his team, Lotto Fix-all could fix(haha?) some sort of attack at the end and then tomorrow take the Maglia Rosa.

Lotto began to push the pace, reducing the breakaway's lead to 4:25 with 40k done. SunWeb and UAE Emirates too took turns at the front and with 50k done, another minute went down for the breakaway. But even after all that pacemaking, the peloton was riding quite easy, with only 70k done in 2 hours of racing.

Mullen was doing a majority of work at the front. He's the Irish National champion for Road and TT and a future Giro contender. It was kinda surprising not to see Maglia Azzura wearer Enrico Barbin (Bardiani-CSF) not riding at the front.

The riders reached the site of a terrible earthquake in 1968, Santa Margherita di Belice and began climbing the 1st of the 4 climbs. Mullen comfortably took the KOM and the points. It was quickly followed by the 1st intermediate sprint. Vendrame took that sprint, followed by Zhupa. With 50k to go, with Lotto Fix-all pushing the breakaway had 2:30 of a lead.

The riders began their 9.2k, 3.7% gradient journey up to Partanna and again, Mullen took the KOM just because he was leading the group. BMC moved to the front and with 37k to go the gap dropped for the 1st time below 2 minutes.

The riders rolled into Poggioreale for the second intermediate sprint and Vendrame once again took maximum points (and three bonus seconds) and with 23.5k to go, Mullen's teammate Didier attacked, with Mullen dropping back and not responding. The break unraveled and then there were 3.
19.5k to go saw a sight I have been longing to see, Team Sky at the front, pushing pace especially the TT man Vasil Kiriyenka, who I really admire. Vendrame attacked, dropping Didier and Zhuma, and was a minute clear of the peloton being headed by Lotto-Fix All.

And then with 13.4k to go, CRASH! And a LOT of riders were caught up in it. Broken wheels were on the road, Ruben Fernandez (Movistar) stood with blood on his hands and missing a shoe. The GC contenders were safe but caught in the crash were some important guys including Ciclamino Jersey wearer Elia Viviani,  Best Young Rider classification leader Maximilian Schachmann (both QuickStep Floors) and Bahrain Merida's leader Domenico Pozzovivo.

Bahrain Merida displayed impressive riding as Pozzovivo was able to catch up with the Peloton, so were Schachmann and Viviani. Vendrame lead by 21" with 10k to go, but Lotto Fix-All quickly caught up with him and all were together with 5k to go.

And then another crash happened at the back as Astana's leader Miguel Angel Lopez aka Superman went flying into the grassy knolls. Astana's riders were trying hard to get him back up, but with the peloton going hard at the front, especially with some impressive riding being done by Bahrain Merida and Lotto-Fix all, it was going to be a hard job.

With 2k to go, Michael Woods(2nd yesterday, EF Education Drapac) showed his face at the front. There were attacks happening, but the peloton, lead by Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott) went under the Flame Rouge together.

Immediately, Diego"Mr Giro" Ullisi(UAE Emirates) attacked quickly tailed by Sicily's son Giovanni Visconti. They swung into the last ramp, with everyone still together but yesterday's 3rd place finisher, Enrico Battaglin (Lotto-Soudal) in perfect position behind Visconti.

Visconti gritted his teeth and tried to take it for Sicily, but his countryman Battaglin, having learnt from yesterday's early attacked paced himself perfectly, attacked with 200 meters to go and won the stage by around 3 bike lengths!

The day's biggest loser was Lopez, who lost 42" in the end over his GC rivals and is now over 2 minutes down on Dennis and Dumoulin with Mt. Etna looming tomorrow.

So, today's stage results:

Simon Yates again finishing in the Top 10, Wellens was 6th.

And overall standings before tomorrow's fireworks:

Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow, after Mt. Etna!


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