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Giro’14 St.5: Ulissi Grabs It!
giro14st5_ulissi650Race Report: The 2014 Giro d’Italia’s Stage 5 route in the South of Italy from Taranto to Viggiano promised some changes from the rest of the Giro so far with 2 new things on offer, small mountains and sunshine! Or at least it looked that way at the start…


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Cadel Evans had reason to smile after his move into the top 10 and third overall with a powerful surge in the final meters that showed he’s on form.


The Cat 3 and Cat 4 climbs were never going to change the face of the Giro but they should be enough to knock out most of the sprinters and perhaps have a minor shakeup in the GC standings.

Not afraid of the hills or perhaps just wanting to get a headstart on them was a sprinter heavy 11 man break that raced off early that included sprinters Elia Viviani (Cannondale), Ben Swift (Team Sky), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), Kenny Dehaes (Lotto-Belisol) and Tony Hurel (Europcar). Also in the move were all rounders Fabian Wegmann (Garmin-Sharp), Miguel Angel Rubiano (Colombia), Bjorn Thurau (Europcar), Marco Frapporti (Androni Giocattoli), Yonathan Monsalve (Neri Sottoli) and Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Belisol).

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One Cat 3 climb and the Cat 4 finishing climb to be tackled twice

Not surprisingly when the break made it to the intermediate sprint at 70km the points were hotly contested with Ben Swift taking the win and Elia Viviani moving into the lead in the red jersey competition thanks to his second place.


No Rain But Wind
The peloton meanwhile kept the break within a safe distance as Orica-GreenEdge did the work on the front, always holding the gap within the 3-5 minute mark. It was hard work today though as the wind was blowing a gale with big intermittent gusts making the going very difficult. Still, it was better than the rain the riders had already experienced in the first four stages and with a technical descent in the last 15km of the stage everyone was hoping that the rain would hold off for this day at least.


The First Climb
The break split up as expected over the Cat 3 climb with Colombian champion Miguel Angel Rubiano taking the maximum points but the group was soon all back together on the descent. Meanwhile exactly three minutes back in the still GreenEdge led peloton things were calm with the Aussie team doing a perfect tempo job of leaving the break out there just far enough so as not to catch them too early but for all involved it was clear that the break had little or no chance to make it to the finish for the win.


The Break Breaks Down
With the riders and team directors from the break also realising the situation the unity amongst the group disintegrated and numerous riders tried their hand to get away and re-energize the move. With 23km to go though it was all over for seven of them as they were caught by the peloton with only Thurau, Monsalve, Van der Sande & Frapporti still ahead but their lead was tenuous.


The Penultimate Climb
The penultimate climb was also the final climb as the route actually took in this 4th category climb to Viggiano twice today with just an extremely technical descent in between the two ascensions.

Europecar’s German, Bjorn Thurau had now shed his final companions as they climbed for the first time but the big news was that it was now raining and race organizers sent out warnings over the radio that the descent which included 7 switchback corners was slippery and extremely dangerous. With this news the pace in the now very nervous peloton seemed to increase more as the teams with GC riders looked to position their men at the front in case of problems.

Surprisingly the first crash happened before the descent even started when a small narrowing of the road combined with the nervous peloton, the wind and the rain led to a number of riders hitting the deck on the uphill with just 16km to go. Most of the GC favorites avoided the tumble but what was left of the peloton was now split in two and it was local boy Domenico Pozzovivo who had missed out, finding himself in the second half.

Katusha & BMC kept the pace high which led to our lone leader Thurau quickly being caught. Just before the descent started Pozzovivo and a handful of others made it back to the peloton but they were at the back and badly positioned as the road tilted downhill.


Going Down
With the warnings on race radio and the rain it was only a matter of time until we saw an accident and in separate incidents two Astana men hit the deck – first in Enrico Gasparotto and Mikel Landa – both dark horse possibilities for the uphill stage win today.

The bunch made their way down relatively calmly despite a few more slip and slide incidents but one man who put all caution aside was the Italian OPQS rider, Gianluca Brambilla. The former top 15 Giro finisher was a man on a mission, attacking the corners like the road was dry and by the bottom of the descent his lead was almost 45seconds.


The Final Climb
Brambilla continued to give it his all over the final six kilometers and at 4km to go his lead was 32 seconds, 3km to go 26 seconds but the writing was on the wall with a strong chase from Katusha behind. The Russian squad were trying to set up Joaquim Rodriuguez for the win and the power that they were putting down was impressive, shredding Brambilla’s lead and thinning the peloton rapidly.

Brambilla was eventually caught just over a kilometer from the finish when Nicolas Roche then launched an attack but it was short lived as the Katusha train just kept on driving. The train was so strong in fact that there was soon just four riders left at the front, two Katushas, Trek’s Arredondo and Sky man Boasson Hagen followed by a five bike length gap to a very small group that included the other GC favorites and pink jersey Michael Matthews. With just a few hundred meters to go Matthews panicked and closed the gap himself towing the likes of Diego Ulissi and Cadel Evans back up to the leaders who then launched their own sprints.

On the uphill grade Ulissi made it look like it was flat, sprinting away clear for the victory with Arredondo and Evans battling each other and the gradient in an effort to take second and the bonus seconds that came with it. Evans just managed to beat the Colombian for 2nd with another Colombian, OPQS’ Uran taking 4th. Cadel Evans’ bonus seconds for 2nd moved him up the GC into 3rd @ 15s to Michael Matthews who held on to his jersey by finishing 6th on the stage.

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Another action packed final 20 km and unfortunately another rain affected one. Keep it tuned to PEZ for all the latest pics, news and more from the Giro as hopefully the weather improves at some point!

Stage 5 Results:
1 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 5:12:39
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:01
3 Julian David Arredondo Moreno (Col) Trek Factory Racing
4 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team
5 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo
6 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge
7 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha
8 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
9 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
10 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team

General Classification After Stage 5:
1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge 17:41:23
2 Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica Greenedge 0:00:14
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:15
4 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:19
5 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:26
6 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky 0:00:35
7 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:37
8 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:41
9 Dario Cataldo (Ita) Team Sky 0:00:49
10 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:52
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