An unwilling breakaway
Tiago Machado (Katusha) went away in the early break but was the last to give up on the futile venture.
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He pushed on for quite some time on his own, perhaps willing himself to believe he could go all the way to the end of the stage.
When the time gap started to tumble downwards, the rider appeared to be consulting his team with a view to sitting up and getting caught. Those in the car appeared to have different ideas and their man rode on.
He was caught, as he expected to be, and the race headed for a bunch sprint of sorts.
Something for the sprinters
There isn’t much on offer for the sprinters at the 2016 Vuelta, and most of the big names will now be looking ahead to the World Championships on a flat course in Qatar anyway.
This stage had something to offer, however, particularly for the punchier riders. This looked to be the case when Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) attacked on an incline, but he couldn’t stay away and a reduced bunch came past him.
Zdenek Sybar gave his Etixx-Quick Step teammate a strong lead out, and Gianni Meersman came round and won the stage. This is the Belgian’s second stage win of this Vuelta a España and puts him into the lead in the points competition.
Although not on the top tier of sprinting with the likes of André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Meersman is taking the his opportunities in the bunch and reduced bunch sprints.
Quiet day for the GC men, for the most part
Transitional, one for the sprinters, whatever we choose to call it this stage was relatively easy for the majority of the general classification hopefuls.
Valverde was active at the finish as he looks for stage wins, but for the likes of his teammate Nairo Quintana, Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) this was a day for staying out of trouble and conserving energy.
Not all those with red jersey aspirations came out of this stage in contention, though. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) was seen laying on the roadside clutched his shoulder and it’s been confirmed that he’s out with a broken collarbone.
Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) also went down, but finished the stage and looks to be unharmed by the spill.
Team Sky have another easy day
Team leader Froome is looking good so far, and is comfortably in the top five of the GC. He has also looked strong in the opening stages despite the volume of racing in his legs from the rest of the season.
The men in blue and black did show themselves with about 5km to go as they moved Froome into a safe position before falling back into the pack and left other to fight for stage honours.
Keeping the domestiques fresh and not having the leader’s jersey to defend for as long as possible will be key to delivering Froome to Madrid as the overall winner.
This is about as transitional as the Vuelta gets
As such, stage five was what counts as transitional at this year’s race, and took riders back inland from Viveiro on the coast to Lugo, covering 163km.
There are other similar stages coming up, but most are lumpier or deliver the riders to upward tilting roads as the third Grand Tour of the year confirms the brutality of its route.