Break of four spent most of the day out front, but the battle for first became a sprinter's game by the end
Italian rider Enrico Battaglin (LottoNL-Jumbo) won stage five of the Giro d’Italia, on a day that was characterised by a break group of four riders who escaped the peloton in the opening kilometres.
The sprint finish left little dent in the GC, with Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing Team) holding on to the Maglia Rosa for one more day, followed closely by Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), one second behind and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) third at 17s.
After a 202 kilometre preceding stage, riders were treated to a shorter stage five, covering 153km from Agrigento to Santa Ninfa.
The day was by no means flat, though, the course backloaded with smaller climbs which featured from the 60km to go mark – the 2.8km Santa Margherita di Belice (4.3 per cent), 9.2km Partanna (3.7 per cent), and 4.7km Poggioreale Vecchia (5.4 per cent).
Coast roads meant this was a day that had been flagged as a chance for a breakaway – and four riders were prepared to take their chances.
How it happened
Attacks began quickly after the flag drop, with Ryan Mullen (Trek-Segafredo) escaping the peloton alongside Eugert Zhupa (Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia) and Andrea Vendrame (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec). Mullen instigated the move, and was soon joined by his team mate, Laurent Didier (Trek-Segafredo).
It wasn’t long before the quartet had built up a lead of two minutes, then over four minutes by the 137km to go mark.
Early on, the front of the peloton was dominated by BMC, Sunweb, Sky, Mitchelton-Scott and UAE controlling the pace.
For much of the stage, the bunch was happy to takes its time, leaving the break of four dangling between three and four minutes with Mullen doing a notable amount of work.
However, following the ascent of Santa Margherita di Belice – where the KOM points went to the Irishman Mullen – the bunch was starting to eat away at the margin which dropped to 2-30 with 50km to go.
A long descent was followed by the second climb – Partanna – and Mullen again took the maximum points, though showing no great effort in the competition. It was on this ascent that the break’s time gap dropped below the two minute mark.
As the break rode through Poggioreale, with less than 30km to go, Didier made a move, leaving his team mate Mullen behind with Vendrame and Zhupa. Neither could be shaken, however, and the four were soon back together – at which point Vendrame countered.
Shenanigans in the break meant that the gap had slipped to 1-30, despite crashes in the peloton behind. Vendrame appeared to be the victor of the moment, as Vendrame, Zhupa and Mullen were all on their way back to the peloton as he continued the charge.
His time gap, however, continued to sink, and despite a selection of pile ups behind, with 10km to go Vendrame had a margin of only 20s. This slipped down to 9s at 5km to go, before the peloton eventually swallowed him into its moving mass.
Coming under the 1km to go barrier, Italian rider Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) launched an attack, but made no headway. He was countered by Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Merida), but Enrico Battaglin (LottoNL-Jumbo) was on his wheel – and able to charge to the finish line ahead of the competition.
Behind, the battle for second ensued, with Visconti clinching the podium spot and José Gonçalves (Katusha-Alpecin) taking third.
Results: stage five
1 Enrico Battaglin (Ita) LottoNL-Jumbo 4-06-33
2 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
3 José Gonçalves (Por) Katusha-Alpecin
4 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step Floors
5 Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott
6 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
7 Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
8 Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Katusha-Alpecin
9 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
10 Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, all at same time
General classification after stage 5
1 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team 18-29-41
2 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 1s
3 Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 17s
4 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Fix All, at 19s
5 Pello Bilbao (Esp) Astana Pro Team, at 25s
6 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step Floors, at 28s
7 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at same time
8 José Gonçalves (Por) Katusha-Alpecin, at 32s
9 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 34s
10 Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 35s