Andre Greipel won stage five of the Giro d'Italia to continue his impressive Grand Tour streak, but there was also more to talk about
No birthday present for Kittel
Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step) was presented with a cake on the start line to celebrate his 28th birthday, but he may have eaten one too many slices out on the road as the German couldn’t keep up with the pace.
Stage five was rolling, but not particularly challenging, looking at the relative ease with which the peloton reeled back in the breakaway in the final stages, but as the catch was made Kittel was joining them out the back of the peloton.
It was a bit surprising, given that most of the other sprinter, including stage winner Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) made it to the final stages.
It was the first sprint stage that we’ve not seen a swarm of blue Etixx jerseys at the front of the peloton, with Lotto-Soudal doing a lot of the heavy work.
With a mountain stage on Thursday, Kittel will have to wait until Friday’s stage seven for his next chance for victory.
It was a throwback to March and April in the final kilometres of this stage in Benevento with a few cobblestones on the roads towards the finish line. If you squint at the picture above you might just see some.
They weren’t exactly Paris-Roubaix-esque but it was still a welcome change and brought a bit of a slower pace to the peloton.
Fabian Cancellara should really have won in his natural habitat, but we’ll forgive him for not contesting this one.
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Tinkoff’s tactics in the final kilometres were head-scratching
With 15km to go, Tinkoff leader Rafal Majka found himself off the back of the speeding peloton, which was working hard to bring back the breakaway to set up the bunch sprint.
Out in the breakaway, though, Tinkoff’s Pavel Brutt was powering along trying to help the break stay away.
Someone must have been in Brutt’s ear, telling him to ease off a bit because his leader was struggling not to lose time. At this point in the race any time loss has the potentially to be hugely damaging to a contender’s chances.
The harder the break tried, the faster the peloton had to ride and the more difficult it was for Majka to get back on.
Bobridge pays the price for sitting at the back of the peloton
Every time the television cameras pan to the back of the peloton, there is the figure of Australian champion Jack Bobridge.
The problem with being at the back of the pack is that you’re very likely to get caught up if there’s a crash ahead of you, and that’s what happened today for the Trek-Segafredo rider.
Someone crashed in front of him and Bobridge flipped over his handlebars and landed heavily on the banking at the side of the road, bringing down Albert Timmer (Giant-Alpecin) with him.
Maybe he’s saving himself for the time trial on Sunday, or to help his team leader Ryder Hesjedal in the mountains, but it’s odd to see him not working further forward.
With a sprinter like Giacomo Nizzolo working for stage wins you’d have thought Bobridge would be a useful asset as a diesel engine in the final kilometres.
Instead, in the words of Sean Kelly, he’s at the back stamping the tickets of the riders falling off the end of the peloton.
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Taaramae’s crash caused chaos in the final sprint
With the splits in the peloton and the absence of some big-name sprinters, the final push for the line was made even more messy by Rein Taaramae’s (Katusha) untimely spill on the final corner.
The Estonian slipped on the cobbles while occupying prime real estate on the road, forcing a few sprinters and lead-out men to lose their momentum.
Poor Rein had to then lay there on the floor as dozens of riders flew past him like a jockey who’d been thrown from his horse at a fence in the Grand National.
There was little he could do about the fall, but there’s no doubting it affected a few sprinters’ finishes, including Sacha Modolo, whose Lampre-Merida team were on the front at the time.
In the end Greipel started the sprint from fifth wheel and never looked back, winning by several bike lengths – a recurring theme in this year’s race.