Andre Greipel peerless in Benevento for Giro d'Italia stage 5 win
German veteran Andre Greipel won a tough uphill sprint in Benevento by a country mile to open up his account in a lumpy fifth stage of the Giro d'Italia.
German cyclist Andre Greipel of Lotto Soudal team celebrates as he crosses the finish line at the end of the 233km fifth stage between Praia a Mare and Benevento, during the 99th Giro d'Italia, Tour of Italy, on May 11, 2016 in Benevento.
Greipel, the powerful 33-year-old sprinter from Lotto-Soudal, launched his drive to the line early on the final punchy flagstone ramp, spotting a gap and never looking back as he roared to the fourth Giro stage scalp of his career.
Frenchman Arnaud Demare (FDJ) won the distant battle for second ahead of Italy's Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani-CSF) after the red jersey and pre-stage favourite Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) was dropped on the challenging finish circuit at the end of the 233-kilometre stage from Praia a Mare.
Luxembourg's Bob Jungels (Giant-Alpecin) took fourth place and slashed his deficit to race leader Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) by four seconds thanks to a split on the front of the pack. Dutchman Dumoulin, the maglia rosa, now leads Jungels by 16 seconds at the top of the standings with Tuesday's stage 4 winner Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) in third a further four seconds back.
Dutch cyclist Tom Dumoulin (Giant - Alpecin) competes during the 5th stage of 99th Giro d'Italia, Tour of Italy, from Praia a Mare to Benevento of 233 km on May 11, 2016 in Benevento
Image credit: AFP
Greipel thanked his Lotto Soudal team-mates – and in particular Belgian lead-out man Jurgen Roelandts – for setting up the win after his team chased down a four-man break and then slingshot the Rostock Gorilla with aplomb to the eighteenth Grand Tour stage win of his career.
“I went too early but I thought I’d give it a go – I saw the gap and I just went for it,” said Greipel, who joins Kittel and Rudi Altig as the leading German stage winners on the Giro with four wins apiece.
“I had good legs today so even if my team is a fantastic part of it I still did a great sprint today,” Greipel added. Greipel now trails compatriot Erik Zabel by two wins in the list of Germany’s all-time leading stage winners on Grand Tours.
Stage five finish: Andre Greipel steams clear to win
The succession of uncategorised climbs ahead of a demanding 6.6km finishing circuit that featured both cobbles and uneven polished flagstones proved too much for Greipel’s countryman, Kittel. The Etixx-QuickStep rider won the opening two road stages in the Netherlands in bullish style but has struggled to show his steel on the undulating terrain of southern Italy.
Kittel, however, retained the red points jersey ahead of the race’s first summit finish on Thursday, while Italian veteran Damiano Cunego (Nippo-Vini Fantini) doubled his lead in the blue mountains classification after taking maximum points on the only categorised climb of the day, 35 kilometres after the start.
With Cunego having secured the points, his Nippo-Vini Fantini team took their foot off the gas and a break was allowed to form. Four riders – Russians Alexander Foliforov (Gazprom) and Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff), Italian Daniel Oss (BMC) and Spaniard Amets Txurruka (Orica-GreenEdge) – broke clear to build up a maximum lead of eight minutes as the race left Calabria and edged towards Campania.
Oss took the spoils over both intermediate sprints before losing his front wheel on a tight bend and crashing into a garden fence. The Italian was able to fight back into the break but the gap steadily came down thanks primarily to the work of Greipel’s Lotto Soudal team.
The leading quartet hit the final cobbled section for the first time with just 10 seconds to play with before being swallowed up by the pack with seven kilometres remaining. By now Kittel had been dropped and Greipel was being ushered to the front by Roelandts.
Dutch Tom Dumoulin of team Giant - Alpecin (L) shakes hands with German Marcel Kittel of team Etixx - Quick Step (2nd R) prior to the start of the 5th stage of the 99th Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) from Praia a Mare to Benevento on May 11, 2016 in Praia
Image credit: AFP
Demare, Colbrelli, Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida), Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) were all jostling for positions in a bid to end the German hegemony in sprint finishes in this 99th edition of La Corsa Rosa. And when Katusha’s Rein Taaramae hit the deck on the final tight bend before the uphill rise to the line it was a minor miracle that no one else came down.
A slight lull followed before Griepel seized on a golden opportunity as the road opened up in front of him. But it was no invitation on a plate: the sea had parted, but the German still had to have the strength to power through the gap and leave the other riders trailing in his wake.
The consistent Greipel now has wins in every Grand Tour he has ridden since the 2008 Giro d'Italia - a 10-race sequence that's proof of his enduring class.
Demare was forced to battle for his second runner-up finish of the race ahead of Colbrelli, Jungels and Hofland. Ewan – finding the Giro finishes far harder than those of last year’s Vuelta – could only muster ninth.
GC riders Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) were placed at the back of the leading group and were able to steal four precious seconds back from their pink jersey rivals thanks to a split between the top fourteen riders and the rest of the main pack.
Spanish veteran Valverde is now just one second behind race favourite Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) in the overall standings and 27 seconds down on leader Dumoulin on the eve of the first summit finish of the race. Thursday's 157-kilometre stage from Ponte features two Cat.2 climbs including the mountaintop finish at Roccaraso.