Diego Ulissi put in an impressive turn of speed to win stage five of the Giro d'Italia at the top of a 7.5km climb to Viggiano today. The Lampre-Merida rider rode several bike lengths clear as the likes of Cadel Evans and Joaquim Rodriguez faded at the end of the five hour stage.
Despite the stretched out nature of the field as they crossed the line everyone in the group was given the same time, just one second behind Ulissi, as Australian Michael Matthews put in a great ride to defend his pink jersey.
It had looked like Katusha were set to sew up the stage as the Russian rockets hit the front on mass the second and final time up the four per cent climb. Daniel Moreno then put in a huge turn within the final kilometre that pulled him clear along wih his leader Rodriguez, Julien Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing) and Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen.
The quartet quickly had a ten bike length advantage, but as soon as Moreno pulled off the others faded badly and the group behind, lead by Matthews, were soon back on their wheels. Rodriguez was then stuck on the front, already fully committed, when Ulissi started his sprint.
The Spaniard had nothing left when he needed to respond, and even Evans, who made his move at the same time, couldn't match the speed of Ulissi who pulled clear all the way to the finish line. A win visually more impressive than the final time gaps suggest.
"It was an important win," said Ulissi after the finish. "To win a Giro d'Italia stage for an Italian is important, I took on champions. It was a hard finish, a nervous stage, with strong wind and rain in the final.
"I was behind at 20km and I had to put my feet on the ground [with 17km to go]," Ulissi said of the difficult final section of the stage. "My team-mates did well and took me to the front. I was on the fifth wheel, and I waited due to the head wind. Quintana could not maintain the wheel, left a gap, and I followed Matthews who closed it and sprinted."
Matthews has reached his target of being in the race lead until stage six. "My goal was up until tomorrow," he said. "We will see. My form seems to be good, I'll have to assess it tomorrow. The next few stages will be key for the team to keep the pink jersey. We've had a good run so far, we'll try to keep the ball rolling."
Better day for Swift
Sky's Ben Swift kept himself in contention in the points classification after taking today's intermediate sprint and the 10 points that go with it. Having crashed in the rain yesterday and therefore denied the opportunity of challenging for the sprint, Swift made the break today along with Elia Viviani and Tyler Farrar.
All three knew the finish, and therefore the points, would be out of their reach being at the top of a 7.5km drag, and so targeted the intermediate points. Swift won the sprint ahead of Viviani and Farrar to keep himself within reach of the lead. Viviani (Cannondale) leads the red jersey competition from Nacer Bouhanni (Fdj.com) by four points.
Giro d'Italia 2014, stage 5: Tarranto - Viggiano 203km
1. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 5-12-39hrs
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 1 sec
3. Julien Arredondo (Col) Trek Factory Racing at 1 sec
4. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 1 sec
5. Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo at 1 sec
6. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at 1 sec
7. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 1 sec
8. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin at 1 sec
9. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale at 1 sec
10. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 1 sec
Overall classification after stage five
1. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
2. Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica-GreenEdge at 14 secs
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 15 secs
4. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 19 secs
5. Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo at 26 secs
6. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky at 35 secs
7. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Tinkoff-Saxo at 37 secs
8. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana at 41 secs
9. Dario Cataldo (Ita) Team Sky at 49 secs
10. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 52 secs
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