Tuesday’s stage four was action packed from beginning to end, but we had to wait for the final climb to Abetone for stage five to really come to life.
The break got a huge lead and one of their men, Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida), kept away for the win, but it’s more what happened behind him that we’re all talking about now.
1. Alberto Contador’s attack on the final climb
It was no surprise to see one of the favourites attack up the climb to Abetone, but it was a bit of a shock to see Alberto Contador make the first move.
The Spaniard is clearly on the front foot and wants to show everyone just how strong he is. Contador didn’t look particularly good on the time trial in stage one, but maybe his explosion today was a way to stop people questioning his condition.
It looked for a moment like Contador would leave Richie Porte and Fabio Aru behind, but his rivals just about caught his wheel to keep him in check.
El Pistolero’s move was enough to put himself into the maglia rosa and he will now have a battle on his hands to keep the other contenders at bay for a further 16 stages.
2. Astana and Tinkoff-Saxo looked strong
There’s no need to declare a state of emergency in the British team, it’s just that Astana and Tinkoff both looked stronger in support of their leaders on the final climb than Sky’s boys did.
Mikel Nieve got a puncture in the foothills which left him unable to help and when Contador went off the front there wasn’t much the boys in black could do other than let Porte go.
Nevertheless, Astana managed to get Mikel Landa up to the Contador group to help Aru, smashing a relentless pace up the steep finish to ensure the bunch would not come back.
Unlike yesterday, Tinkoff didn’t blow through their full compliment of riders well before the end, meaning Contador was perfectly placed to make his attack.
Fear not, there’s plenty of time for everyone to get their game together.
3. Who is Jan Polanc?
For the second day running we’ve had a winner under the age of 24 and again it was from a team with an up-and-down start to the season.
Polanc, like Davide Formolo, is in his second year as a pro, having joined Lampre-Merida as a stagiaire back in the latter half of 2013 and, like Formolo, is after a new contract for 2016.
His results thus far didn’t point towards this win, although his attacking intent was clear from joining the breakaway at the Amstel Gold Race.
4. Lampre-Merida’s penchant for stage races
Polanc’s win was Lampre-Merida’s fourth win in stage racing this season. By no means is that a massive tally by it’s more than they’ve won in one-day races.
Those wins were particularly impressive because they were by riders who weren’t necessarily among the favourites before the race started.
The boys in fuscia were literally nowhere to be seen during the cobbled Classics, while former world champion Rui Costa notched up two fourth places in the Ardennes. Their one-day form is nothing to write home about but they’ll be shouting from the rooftops with their latest stage win.
5. Uran continues to struggle
It’s stage five and Rigoberto Uran has already lost two teammates and nearly a minute and a half to new leader Alberto Contador in the General Classification.
The Colombian has a bit of a cold, apparently, which could explain him not featuring in the final climb but could this rule him out of contention with two weeks left to go?
With only six men to help him now, Uran will have his work cut out to get back in touch with Contador and co, but will console himself that there’s a long time trial still to come where he has the potential to make some time back.
6. Sylvain Chavanel: Old dog, new race
Sylvain Chavanel has managed to avoid riding the Giro d’Italia in his 16-year racing career but he looked to be enjoying it (to a point) on stage five.
The 35-year-old got himself in the breakaway and was the first one to attack on the final climb as the five-man group disintegrated.
As Polanc pulled away, however, Chava was looking a little ropey.
If you were to look at the final standings on the stage you’ll notice that the Frenchman led the group of Contador, Aru and Porte over the line.
In reality the old boy just about clung on as the chasers closed a gap of nearly nine minutes on the final climb.
Fair play to Chavanel, though. He proved a point – not that one needed proving – got his team some deserved recognition and picked up six vital bonus seconds to move him just 37 minutes and 11 seconds behind Contador in the race for pink.