Filippo Ganna is on another level
Ineos Grenadiers needed to turn their Giro around, but it couldn’t have happened any quicker.
After losing their leader Geraint Thomas to injury on stage three, things didn’t improve for the British WorldTour squad on stage four when Ben Swift crashed.
But their fortunes looked to be turning on the road to Camigliatello Silano, when the Italian duo of Salvatore Puccio and Filippo Ganna made it into the day’s breakaway.
While the course looked be too mountainous for 76kg Ganna, with the 10km Tiriolo to conquer, the time trial and track specialist showed how unique his talent really is (Ganna pushed 500 watts for 13 minutes on a climb while training earlier this year).
The 24-year-old attacked with around 17km of the stage left to race and carried himself to the finish alone, utilising the same huge engine that won him the opening stage TT.
Ganna has now claimed two stages on his Grand Tour debut and the fifth stage of the Giro is his first victory outside a TT – the question now is where do his limits lie?
GC race comes down to bonus second
As Ganna held off the chasing general classification group on the road, the fight for the pink jersey came down to the bonus seconds as the favourites were evenly matched on the manageable slopes of the Tiriolo.
Domenico Pozzovivo (NTT Pro Cycling) led the GC group over the top of the climb, before Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) took to the front to showcase his magical descending skills in awful weather conditions.
But despite the nervous descent, the GC group couldn’t be separated with the only minor time gains coming in the form of bonuses at the finish line.
The only major change in the general classification was Jonathan Caicedo (EF Pro Cycling) who couldn’t carry his form after his stage victory on Mount Etna, losing contact with the favourites and slipping out of the top-10 by the finish.
Joâo Almeida continues to lead the race, extending his advantage to 43 seconds over Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren), with Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) now third at 48 seconds.
The main favourites are still all close together in the top-10, with Vincenzo Nibali, Jakob Fuglsang and Steven Kruisjwijk all separated by 20 seconds with no real GC tests until stage nine.
Simon Yates left wanting on the climbs once more
While the favourites did all finish together, there was one notable moment at the very top of Tiriolo, as Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) started to lose contact with his rivals very near the summit.
Fortunately for Yates he managed to minimise the gap and then chased back on during the descent that followed, safely finishing at the tail end of the GC group.
But that tiny gap at the top of the climb is an omen nonetheless, as Yates has already slipped a considerable distance back in the overall classification after a bad day on Mount Etna.
Yates came within days of winning the Giro in 2018 after dominating the race after the first week, but he then fell away dramatically when his endurance finally reached its limit.
Has Yates come into the Giro slightly behind his ideal form in the hopes of coming strong in the third week, or are the cracks in the armour a more foreboding sign?
Yates is currently sat just outside the top-20, 3-52 off the race lead alongside the other best British riders in the race, Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) and James Knox (Deceuninck – Quick-Step).
Autumn in Italy continues to offer horrendous weather
With the Giro d’Italia being held in Autumn, we were guaranteed to see some tough weather conditions out on the road, but I’m not sure anyone expected just how bad the weather would be.
Sicily offered up some brutal conditions as rain fell consistently on the peloton in the open four stages and things didn’t improve as the race moved to the mainland on stage five.
Ganna crested the final climb alone through mist, rain and darkness while Simon Yates completely lost sight of his rivals after losing just a few bike lengths due to the poor visibility.
As the race heads north, weather conditions are not likely to improve and we can expect snow on the high mountains – will the race be able to make it Milan without some major detours?
Another breakaway success
This looks to be be a great Giro d’Italia for the breakaway specialists.
The 2020 route is utterly brutal and relentless, particularly in the third week when riders face numerous tough mountain days.
For that reason, the GC favourites seem happy to let the breakaways have their fun in the mountains, as the winner came from an escape for the second time this race.
First it was Jonathan Caicedo in the already-infamous duck kit of EF Pro Cycling on the iconic Mount Etna on stage three, this time it was Ganna taking consolation for Ineos.
Ganna and Puccio for Ineos were joined by the likes of Carl Fredrik Hagen (Lotto-Soudal), Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) and Jan Tratnik (Bahrain-McLaren), all capable of taking a stage like stage five, so watch out for these riders when the mountains return.
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) also broke clear of the peloton for a brief chase late into the stage, while it came to nothing eventually no doubt we’ll see De Gendt again on the most brutal stages.