Quick-Step don't put a foot wrong; Not yet, Luka; Ewan's luck; and more talking points from stage five of the 2017 Giro d'Italia
Quick-Step’s perfect Giro continues
Belgian super-team Quick-Step Floors just keep getting better in the 2017 Giro d’Italia. Fernando Gaviria took his second stage win of the race on Wednesday as team-mate Bob Jungels safely kept hold of the coveted maglia rosa of race leader.
Despite looking after race leader Jungels all day, the team assembled itself perfectly in the finale of stage five to give Gaviria a textbook lead-out from quite far back in the bunch. Gaviria himself looked wholly composed in the fast finish, finding the right wheels to follow and executing his effort with precision timing.
The 22-year-old Colombian now takes the sprints jersey for his efforts – having himself already worn the leader’s jersey – giving Quick-Step another appearance on the podium in Messina. And Jungels looks set to continue to collect the pink jersey for a few days yet.
Not yet, Luka!
Most of us watching the final 10 kilometres of the stage will have given a nervous laugh for Luka Pibernik (Bahrain-Merida). The 23-year-old Slovenian had attacked on the penultimate lap of the finishing circuit, putting in a huge effort to distance the peloton.
Exactly why he did this became apparent as he passed under the finish-line banner and celebrated the victory. His celebration continued right up until the point he looked behind him and realised that the bunch were carrying on for another lap.
He’ll probably be studying the road book a little closer in future.
Still no luck for Ewan
After a series of near-misses and frustrating mishaps, many considered that Australian fastman Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) could prevail on stage five’s sprint finish. However, it wasn’t to be, and Ewan finished down in 23rd place, 10 places lower than Orica team leader Adam Yates.
Ewan can take some consolation that he may have more opportunities this week, with stages six and seven offering the possibility of fast bunch finishes. However, it will take some effort to beat Quick-Step, who appear to have the edge over absolutely everyone else when it comes to organisation.
General classification riders still locked together
Right behind the gaggle of sprinters battling out for the stage win, the general classification hopefuls all finished together.
With teams keen to keep their GC men out of the way of any pile-ups in the finale, it’s normal to see the top overall riders come home just after the sprinters – hence why we saw Adam Yates finish ahead of Orica’s nominated sprinter Caleb Ewan.
Despite the previous day’s visit to Mount Etna, the top 10 is separated by just 10 seconds. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), Mikel Landa (Team Sky), Yates, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and overall leader Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) are all there or thereabouts.
Thus far, only Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Russian Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) have lost a little time, but at this stage of the race that is largely inconsequential.
No-one has really shown any sign of weakness, and so the top 10 status quo could well continue until Sunday’s stage to Blockhaus when we should see the first real fight for the overall lead.
Sam Bennett is rapidly improving
Irish sprinter Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) signalled his recovery from an untimely bout of gastroenteritis at the start of the race by placing third behind stage winner Gaviria and runner-up Jakub Mareczko (Wilier). Bennett actually looked as though he had the win sewn up, but Gaviria had jumped on his wheel and came around him on the line as they fought into a headwind.
Mareczko was impressive, too, up the left-hand-side of the road, actually going at a faster pace than either Gaviria or Bennett. But timing is everything and Gaviria got it right.
Like Ewan, Bennett may have his chance to take a stage win over the following days – can he take his first Grand Tour stage victory to add to that memorable Paris-Nice stage win in March?