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Launching a long sprint with 300m to go, Greipel was in a class of his own in the uphill sprint on stage 5 of the Giro d’Italia, opening a big gap to Demare and Colbrelli in second and third respectively; Dumoulin retained the lead

Photo: Sirotti














11.05.2016 @ 17:49 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) continued his impressive winning streak in grand tours when he showed impressive power to crush the opposition in the uphill sprint on stage 5 of the Giro d’Italia. In a tough battle between the strongest of the fast guys, the German put metres into Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) by hitting out from afar with 300m of the cobbled uphill finishing straight left to take the fourth Giro stage win of his career. A split in the finale cost Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) a few seconds to a few rivals but the Dutchman retained the lead on the eve of the first uphill finish.


After two modest performances at the 2006 and 2007 Vuelta a Espana, André Greipel won his first grand tour stage at the 2008 Giro d’Italia. Since then he has won a stage in every grand tour that he has done, making it a streak of 9 victorious three-week races in a row when he lined up for this year’s Giro d’Italia.


However, it looked like the string could be brought to an end in Italy as the German lined up for the race short of form after an injury-marred spring where had been set back by a broken rib. Furthermore, he was up against an unstoppable Marcel Kittel and as he is set to leave the race at the midpoint, he was running out of options.


Despite coming up short in the first two sprint stages, his Lotto Soudal team still believed in their German fastman and when they looked at today’s fifth stage which had a very undulating profile and a cobbled uphill sprint, they decided to go all in for Greipel. All day they chased behind the breakaway and in the end, Greipel proved that he never fails in a grand tour by taking a dominant victory that was fully comparable to the wins of Kittel in the Netherlands.


Kittel had already been taken out of contention by the time, the peloton crossed the finish line for the first time to embark on their lap of the 6.5km finishing circuit. The tough course had been too much for the Etixx-QuickStep sprinter who found himself in a group that had been distanced inside the final 10km.


The break was caught just as Jos van Emden (LottoNL-Jumbo) led the peloton across the line. Enrico Battaglin took over for the Dutch team, with sprinter Moreno Hofland sitting in second position just in front of the Lotto Soudal train.The Italian held off a surge from the Katusha train before Jose Joaquin Rojas surged forward for Movistar.


That’s when Lotto Soudal really kicked into action again as Jurgen Roelandts hit the front with Greipel on his wheel. Impressively, the Belgian managed to stay in front from the 5km to go mark until only 1500m remained, making sure that Greipel was always in second position on the very technical circuit.


Meanwhile, all the sprinters were fighting hard for Greipel’s wheel as no one could really organize a lead-out, and it was Giacomo Nizzolo who won the battle, followed by Hofland and Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin). The only team that could do a real lead-out was Lampre-Merida that hit the front with Matej Mohoric, Roberto Ferrari and Sacha Modolo just before the final turn with less than 1.5km to go.


That’s when things unraveled for Nizzolo. Rein Taaramae (Katusha) hit the deck and so the Italian lost the opportunity to sprint. At the same time, the Lampre train got split and so Mohoric had lost his teammates when he led the peloton under the flamme rouge.


Ignatas Konovaloas and Mickael Delage took over for FDJ before Roberto Ferrari came to the front for Lampre-Merida, followed by Sonny Colbrelli, Modolo, Arnaud Demare, Greipel and Alexey Tsatevich (Katusha). The Italian stayed on the front until the 300m to go mark but when he swung off, the group slowed down as nobody seemed to be keen to hit out this early.


Greipel knew that there was a risk of getting boxed in and so he decided to give it a go by hitting out from afar and he immediately got a big gap. No one could just get just the slightest bit closer to the German who had a big gap to Demare and Colbrelli as he crossed the line.


A late split allowed Bob Jungels (Etixx-QuickStep), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) to gain four seconds on Tom Dumoulin and so Jungels moved into seconds, 16 seconds behind the Dutchman. However, Dumoulin retained his lead as he faces his first big climbing test tomorrow when the riders have the first uphill finish. There’s an early category 2 climb and then plenty of undulating terrain before the riders get to the bottom of the final climb which averages 4.8% over 17km. However, the climb never gets very steep and as the final 3km only average 3-4%, it’s a stage more suited to puncheurs than climbers.


A long, hilly stage

After yesterday’s lumpy stage, there was more difficult terrain on the menu in the very long stage 5 which brought the riders over 233km from Praia a Mare to Benevento. The first 35km were all uphill and led to the top of a categorized climb. From there, the riders barely found a single metre of flat road but the final 50km were mainly downhill. In the end, they did one lap of a technical 6.5km finishing circuit that included an uphill finishing straight that averaged 3.4% and included a bit of pave.


The 195 riders who reached the finish yesterday, were all there when the peloton gathered for the start in southern Italy. There had been thunderstorms in the morning, but it was dry as the group headed out for their neutral ride.


Cunego wins the KOM sprint

Like yesterday, it was a fast start as the undulating profile invited to attacks, and despite numerous attempts, no one had gone clear after 26km of racing. This meant that Nippo-Vini Fantini sensed a chance to go for KOM points, and therefore they took control as the peloton approached the only categorized climb where Damiano Cunego (Nippo-Vini Fantini) reinforced his lead by beating Julen Amezqueta (Willier), Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) and teammate Alessandro Bisolti in the sprint.


Immediately after the sprint, there were new attacks, and after 40km of racing Daniel Oss (BMC), Alexander Foliforov (Gazprom), amets txurruka (Orica-GreenEdge) and Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff) built a gap of 24 seconds. The peloton finally relaxed a little, and therefore the gap had gone out to 4.20 at the 50km mark and 6.25 nine kilometers later. It reached a maximum of 7.03 at the 61km mark before Giant-Alpecin slowly began to reel in the break after two hours at an average speed of 41.05 km/h.


Points for Demare

Oss beat Foliforov, Txurruka and Brutt in the day's first intermediate sprint where Arnaud Demare (FDJ) was faster than Elia Viviani (Sky), Boy van Poppel (Trek) and Kristian Sbaragli (Dimension Data) in the battle for the remaining points. At that time, the gap was down to six minutes, but it again went out to 6.32 in the feed zone. Here Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) left the race.


Oss beat Foliforov, Txurruka and Brutt in the final intermediate sprint where Demare again was the fastest in the peloton, holding off his teammate Mickael Delage, Viviani and Arnaud Courteille (FDJ). At this point, the peloton had upped the pace and crossed the line 4.28 behind the leader.


Oss goes down

Oss crashed on the descent and when he was back on the bike, he had already lost 1.33. However, he quickly made it back to the front group.


Lotto Soudal took control of the peloton with Jelle Vanendert but they were not chasing hard. As they entered the final 100km, the gap had gone out to 5.45 which prompted Giant-Alpecin to lend a hand with Cheng Ji and Tom Stamnsnijder.


Mareczko abandons

Stamsnijder, Jo and Vanendert had reduced the gap to 4.40 ten kilometres later when they slowly climbed to the top of a long, gradual ascent. The lumpy terrain took its toll as Trek-Segafredo lead-out man Boy van Poppel was dropped. Ji also disappeared from the front but as they got to the top, the Chinese breakaway killer went back to work.


The easier terrain allowed the peloton to refuel and take a natural break and so Vanendert and Ji stepped off the gas, keeping the gap at 4.10 with 80km to go. Here Jakub Mareczko (Wllier) became the fifth rider to leave the race after having been dropped in the tough terrain.


Wellens hits the front

After the small lull, the peloton again started to ride faster as they hit the next climb where Matteo Pelucchi (IAM) became the next sprinter to get dropped. At the same time, the escapees managed to push the gap out from 3.45 to 4.15.


As the climbing again started, Ji disappeared from the front and it was Stamsnijder and Vanendert who kept the gap at around 4 minutes as they headed to the final top of the day. As soon as they got there, it was time to start the reel chase and so Tim Wellens came to the fore for Lotto Soudal.


IAM come to the fore

Vanendert finalized his work and Giant-Alpecin decided that they had done enough, leaving it to Wellens to ride fast down the descent. The Belgian was doing a good job and had reduced the gap to less than 3 minutes with 53km to go.


IAM decided to lend Lotto Soudal a hand as Larry Warbasse joined forces with Wellens. They were going fast and so the gap was already down to 2 minutes as they entered the final 50km.


The chase gets organized

The escapees reacted strongly but it was impossible to keep the peloton at bay as the chase was getting organized. IAM disappeared but with 45km to go, Willier, Trek, Lotto Soudal and Lampre-Merida were all contributing and so the gap was down to 1.30 as they finished the descent.


The peloton hesitated as the sprint teams suddenly all disappeared and as Sky took control with Ian Boswell to keep Mikel Landa safe, the gap started to grow again. It was back up to 1.50 as they entered the final 35km.


Lotto and IAM in control

It was a short lull as Trek, Lotto and IAM quickly started to work again with Laurent Didier, Wellens, Stefan Denifl and Warbasse. Nonetheless, the escapees managed to stabilize the gap at 1.20-1.30.


With 26km to go, Didier suffered a puncture and Wellens also disappeared from the front, with Lars Bak taking over from Lotto Soudal. They made sure that the gap was less than a minute with 23km to go.


Puncture for Majka

Bak and Denifl kept the gap at around 30 seconds while Gianfranco Zilioli (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Albert Timmer (Giant-Alpecin) and Jack Bobridge (Trek) hit the deck in a spectacular crash with 16km to go. Luckily they all managed to get back on the bike.


Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) suffered a very untimely puncture and got a wheel from teammate Ivan Rovny before he started his long chase with Rovny and Manuele Boaro. Meanwhile, the fight for position intensified.


The break is caught

IAM hit the front with Roger Kluge before Sky and Ag2r lined out their troops next to them. Bak was also still working on the front and as a consequence, the gap had dropped to 15 seconds with 10km to go where Majka rejoined the peloton.


LottoNL-Jumbo took control as they hit the circuit and it was van Emden who kept Battaglin and Hofland in second and third position. He hit the finishing straight 10 seconds behind the leaders which prompted Txurruka and Brutt to accelerate. However, it was all in vain as the pair was brought back just before the first passage of the line to set the scene for Greipel’s win.



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