May 15, 2014

Giro Stage 5 Review - A Different Kind of Sprint

The Stage: A pretty basic stage with the first category 3 climb of the race and then an uphill finish atop a category 4 climb. Nothing that would trouble any GC men and still a sprint, just a different kind of sprint with a different group of names to contest it.

Who won today's stage? Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) timed his attack on the climb perfectly, sprinting away to win the stage over Cadel Evans (BMC).

When was the stage won? Ulissi smartly followed behind overall leader Michael Mathews (Orica GreenEdge) and then took advantage of him needing to go to keep his jersey. When Ulissi jumped out from Mathews slipstream, only Evans had a chance and Ulissi is a much better sprinter.

When was the stage lost? Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) often owns these kinds of finishes. He was off the pace today and it was lost twice for him. First, it was lost a few weeks ago with his crashes in the Ardennes classics, leaving him a bit off form as he recovered from injury. Second, it was lost on the rest day when Rodriguez and his team talked about needing to gain bonus seconds after a poor team time trial. This left Rodriguez to go from further out with his team having more responsibility than it should have. If Rodriguez were in his normal form, this might not be an issue, but post crashes he couldn't hold his move from as far away as he had to go.

What matters in the GC race? Michael Mathews retained the pink jersey once again. He will lose that jersey either on the category 2 finish tomorrow or on the first mountain finish on Saturday. Among the main contenders, Cadel Evans gained six bonus seconds. He, Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) are the best positioned. Further down, Trek leader Robert Kiserlovski lost 23 seconds when he punctured at the end of the stage and finished on a flat tire (there is no 3 km rule on uphill/summit finishes such as this one).

What matters in the other competitions?
Points (Red Jersey): With Marcel Kittel out of the race and the finish on an uphill, sprinters Ben Swift (Team Sky), Elia Viviani (Cannondale) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) went in the breakaway of the day hunting for points knowing there would be none waiting for them at the end. As a result of the points picked up at the intermediate sprint by them, Viviani took the lead in the points competition from Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ). Swift moved up to 5th place and has decided to target the red jersey, at least if you believe his interviews given to the press in Italy.
King of the Mountains (Blue Jersey): Though he was not in the break nor a threat on the finish, Maarten Tjallingii (Belkin) retained his jersey, at least for one more day as there were not enough points for him to be caught.
Young Rider (White Jersey): Mathews remains the leader here, but his teammate Luke Durbridge who was wearing the white jersey in his stead lost a big chunk of time today. Wearing the jersey tomorrow will be Rafal Majka, second in this competition last year.

Biggest surprise: Ulissi has the form to do well here. He was a favorite for the Ardennes Classics and did nothing at all. So him having the form to win this kind of finish is a surprise, even though the finish suits him perfectly.

Biggest disappointment: Fabio Duarte (Colombia) lost 48 seconds. Even with him being caught behind a crash, there is no excuse for this. The Colombia leader just soft pedaled in the group and lost some time. Meanwhile, Dominico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) was caught behind the same crash and fought back to finish 9th on the stage, losing no time.

What on the docket tomorrow? A long, long stage with not much happening until the road turns up for a category 2 finish that should suit a similar type of rider to today though the longer distance of the climb (5 km) might catch a few more out.


At left full stage profile, at right the final climb to Montecassino.

Stage 6 Pick: Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky). Boasson Hagen has a good sprint on him and the flattening at the top should help him if he's still around. This is a bit of a risky pick and he may not make the final selection at the top of the climb, but if he does he packs the best sprint of those who could make it. Additionally, the nature of this climb with it being a rather constant gradinet will help a rider like Boasson Hagen remain with the leaders.

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