Pascal Ackermann has silenced the doubters with a second stage victory in the 2019 Giro d’Italia.
The German sprinter was determined as he closed down rival Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) and powered past in the pouring rain of stage five.
Treacherous conditions mean the GC race was neutralised before the final, allowing the sprinters to fight for the stage in Terracina while the overall favourites sat up.
Primož Roglič holds onto his lead for another day, as pre-race favourite Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) abandoned 1.5km into the stage because of a knee injury picked up in a crash on stage four.
How it happened
After crashes caused more chaos in the final of stage four, a nervous peloton lined up for the rain-drenched and cold start in Frascati for stage five.
The day was expected to come down the third sprint finish of the 2019 Giro d’Italia, with climbing stacked early in the stage before a long and flat run to the finish in Terracina after 140km of racing.
But before focusing on the technical finishing circuit, the peloton had to deal with the hills, starting from kilometre zero with the uncategorised rise to Rocca Priora which topped out 8km into the day.
Treacherously wet conditions on the descent were followed by another ungraded rise to Rocca di Papa at 25km.
After reaching the top, the bunch then raced downhill before a 40km flat run to the category four climb to Sezze at the 87km mark.
That ascent signalled the end of the climbing, as the peloton would then race full gas along the 40km flat run to the finish.
Major developments kicked off early in the day, as Tom Dumoulin abandoned the race just 1.5km into the neutralised section following his nasty injury during a crash in the final of stage four.
The Dutchman avoided fractures in the fall 5km from the finish in Frascati and attempted to continue the race, but pain from the wound to his left knee forced the 2017 winner out almost immediately on day five.
A breakaway of five riders formed in the opening 5km of racing, with Ivan Santaromita (Nippo-Vini Fantini-Faizanè), Umberto Orsini, Enrico Barbin (Bardiani-CSF), Miguel Florez (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), and Louis Vervaeke (Sunweb) all being allowed to ride clear.
Leader of the King of the Mountain classification Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) had also made it into the day’s break, but opted to sit up and re-join the peloton after 15km of racing.
The break were kept well within range by the peloton, as the escapees were allowed a two-minute maximum advantage.
Biting weather conditions had a huge impact on the race with riders struggling to stay warm and in control on the wet roads.
This prompted race leader Roglič and former double winner Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) to appeal to the race organisers, encouraging them to neutralise the general classification result before the finish for the safety of the riders.
Influenced by the crashes that have already changed the nature of the fight for the overall, the commissaires agreed to take riders’ times from the first crossing of the finish line, allowing the sprinters to battle for stage victory on the final lap around Terracina without affecting the GC favourites.
The peloton slowly reeled the breakaway back to one-minute, when Vervaeke launched a solo attack with 50km left to race, leaving his companions to be swept up by the peloton at 35km.
Vervaeke’s valiant attempt at a solo ride inevitably failed as the Belgian was caught by the bunch with 25km to the line.
The rain only got worse as the race crossed the line for the first time, with the GC teams sitting up knowing their times were secure and the sprint outfits pressed on in their own peloton.
Bora-Hansgrohe, Lotto-Soudal and Groupama-FDJ were most prominent at the head of the race, as Elia Viviani (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and Gaviria tucked in further back with fewer team-mates to ride.
Israel Cycling Academy were also motivated and led the pace inside 5km.
Viviani finally positioned himself at the front of the peloton 2km from the line, with two lead-out riders for support.
Quick-Step led the race at the 1km banner, with Démare most prominently placed as water sprayed under the wheels.
Gaviria was first to unleash his dash for the line, with Viviani unable to follow and rapidly slipping back.
But Ackermann was able to lock himself onto the Colombian’s shadow after a near clash with an FDJ lead-out rider.
At 50m Ackermann kicked again and pushed past Gaviria to take his second stage victory after his win on stage two.
Gaviria took second as Démare was poorly positioned as the sprint unfolded but managed to get back up to take third.
The Giro continues with a tough climbing day on stage six over 238km from Cassino to San Giovanni Rotondo, taking in three big uncategorised climbs early in the day, before the final second category rise 30km form home and a flat 5km run to the line.
Giro d’Italia 2019 stage five: Frascati to Terracina (140km)
1. Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 3-27-05
2. Fernando Gaviria (Col) UAE Team Emirates
3. Arnaud Démare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
4. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto-Soudal
5. Matteo Moschetti (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
6. Ryan Gibbons (RSA) Dimension-Data
7. Paolo Simion (Ita) Bardiani-CSF
8. Jenthe Biermans (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin
9. Giovanni Lonardi (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Faizanè
10. Manuel Belletti (Ita) Adroni Giocattoli-Sidermec, all at same time
General classification after stage five
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, in 19-35-04
2. Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 25 seconds
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 39s
4. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana, at 44s
5. Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at same time
6. Rafał Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 49s
7. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, at 55s
8. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 56s
9. Bob Jungels (Lux) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 1-02
10. Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-06