On paper, and viewed from our vantage point as non-pro cyclists, going about our hum-drum lives and in search of a spot of bike related entertainment, this was a regulation stage.
Flat as a pancake, straight as an arrow, a trundle out to the Adriatic Coast that would end in a sprint. A Caleb Ewan or a Tim Merlier would take the win, and we would all immediately forget what happened and move on to Stage 6.
“I think every day is a GC (general classification) day” said wise
old young sage Jai Hindley, of Team DSM, at the start in Modena, “even today, the conditions could be pretty testing.”
For some, it definitely was, and they definitely were.Embed from Getty Images
As far as twenty-five kilometres from the beach-town finish at Cattolica the peloton was spread, ten-a-breast across the road, a throbbing, living, murmuration of cyclists obsessively focussed on ‘position.’
A word that means ‘at the front…NOW!’.
A tailwind. Road furniture. A super-fast and technical finish up ahead. An agitated Directeur Sportif yelling in your ear. All of these reasons and more. But the road is only so wide, and a pro cyclist is only so skinny, and something had to give.
It gave a few times.
With fifteen kilometres to go the Ineos back up team leader Pavel Sivakov, squeezed against the curb, launched an ungainly flip and clobbered into the tarmac. He climbed back on, ginger, not happy, and clearly struggling. He later abandoned the race with a shoulder injury.
Six kilometres later, another spill. No team leaders this time, and all climbed back on to resume their day, but nerves were all a-jangle. They could be felt through the TV screen. Stress vibrating from the riders in tics and twitches, a study in micro body language.
Three kilometres to go and uurrgghh!
This is bad.
A hi-viz jacketed man, flagging a bollard, sent sprawling, along with Francois Bidard, Stage 4 winner Joe Dombrowski, and a prone, hardly-moving Mikel Landa. Bidard, a broken collar bone, is done. Out of the race. Dombrowski, suspected concussion, might join him. Landa, contender to win this Giro, carted away in an ambulance.
Thankfully, it seems, he will recover. But with a broken collarbone and ribs the Basque climber must bin another Grand Tour.
All of which left us with a sprint finish; a normally joyous occurrence now marred by the crashes.
Into the finishing straight and Giacomo Nizzolo, who, as we established back on Stage 2, is long overdue a Giro stage win, launched early, and decisive, and could almost taste the post stage prosecco, only for little Caleb Ewan, ducking aerodynamically beneath the finish straight headwind, to pip him.
The Aussie bagging a first stage win of this Giro.
A stage that promised a procession but delivered chaos.