Giro d'Italia: Dissecting stage five
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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Giro d'Italia: Dissecting stage five

by Steve Jones at 4:16 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia
Unexpected finale ensures drama

On a day dedicated to the cyclist Fausto Coppi 50 years after his death, Italy’s “Champion of Champions” has a couple of reasons to be smiling down on the race that he won on five occasions.  First, there was a day of racing during stage five that kept cycling fans on the edge of their seats.  The breakaway got it right and unexpectedly spoiled the day for the sprinters, coming in just seconds ahead of the charging peloton.  Then there was the sight of Italian cycling’s Grand Tour future, Vicenzo Nibali, putting on the Maglia Rosa for the second consecutive day.

Today's 168 kilometer travelled through Coppi's hometown of Castellania and finished in Novi Ligure, the town where he went to work as a butcher's errand-boy after leaving school at the age of 13.  His interest in cycling came about while riding back and forth to work on his bicycle, and today's win by Frenchman Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step) added to the tribute of the man the Italians refer to as Il Campionissimo.

On flat stages it’s a common occurrence for a group of riders that are not threat to the overall lead to attack early in the stage.  The Liquigas-Doimo team of the Maglia Rosa was happy to let the group of four go so they would gobble up the time bonuses of 6, 4 and 2 seconds at the intermediate sprints.  That meant that none of the sprinters placed well in the overall could gain enough time to snatch away the race lead from Nibali.  It was the home team of Lampre-Farnese Vini that decided to ride on the front to keep the leaders in reach for their sprinter Alessandro Petacchi.  The Tuscan has been battling bronchitis, but was looking to add another Giro d’Italia stage to his double-digit tally.

The team directors always work out a formula of how much time they can give the leaders and still pull them back in time for their sprinters to have a chance at the stage win.  The riders in the break are also dosing their efforts so they will have something left in the tank for when the peloton begins to bear down on them in the closing kilometers.

As with today, the delicate balance of how much rope to give the break and when you want to make the catch can be affected by teams working to conserve their energy to leadout their sprinter.  If the riders are caught too far away from the finish, the sprinter’s teams will be forced the chase down counter attacks from riders with fresh legs.  If they wait too long or there isn’t a concerted effort from enough teams, the escapees can take advantage of narrow streets in the finishing circuit to stay away, as they did today.

Tomorrow's stage six will take the peloton 166 kilometers from Fidenza to Carrara.  There are three categorized climbs on a route that will suit a breakaway.  Expect to see riders from teams that don't have an overall contender to be on the prowl and go all out for the win.  The sprinters are running out of chances and will try to suffer over the climbs to make up for the previous day’s debacle.


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