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Philippa York reassesses the Giro d'Italia favourites following a tumultuous stage 5

CATTOLICA ITALY MAY 12 Egan Arley Bernal Gomez of Colombia and Team INEOS Grenadiers has a mechanical problem with his radio during the 104th Giro dItalia 2021 Stage 5 a 177km stage from Modena to Cattolica girodiitalia Giro on May 12 2021 in Cattolica Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) on stage 5 keeps his rating in tact (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

In typical Giro d'Italia style the opening stages have provided plenty to write about, from dodgy finishes to poor weather and the elimination before the big mountains of those who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

That's why five stages in we've asked our resident expert Philippa York – who finished second winning the penultimate stage and the mountain classification at her only Giro d'Italia participation in 1987 – to deliver an update on how the riders that are most likely to taste success at the Giro are faring.

Here is York's latest report card on the Giro d'Italia general classification favourites.

Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange)

TURIN ITALY MAY 06 Simon Yates of United Kingdom and Team BikeExchange during the 104th Giro dItalia 2021 Team Presentation at Castello el Valentino girodiitalia Giro on May 06 2021 in Turin Italy Photo by Stuart FranklinGetty Images

Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) at the Giro d'Italia team presentation (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
  • Current rating: ★★★★½
  • Former rating: ★★★★★
  • GC report card: Needs to pay more attention

Simon Yates started the race as the hot favourite in many eyes, mine included, yet after a solid prologue we haven't seen very much of him. In some ways that's good because he's in the wheels saving his strength for the important stages but also it means he's susceptible to being caught out in a random crash or split in the final kilometres. I haven't noticed much evidence of Team BikeExchange keeping their leader right at the front in the vital periods from 10 kilometres to the 3 kilometre GC safety point which is a worry. It does cost energy but until the GC becomes clearer it is something that has to be done.

I wouldn't read too much into the time lost on stage 4 to Sestola because on cold miserable days like that it's difficult to survive with all your faculties. Yates wasn't able to follow the best GC guys but he didn't fall off or have any mishaps either.

Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers)

SESTOLA ITALY MAY 11 Egan Arley Bernal Gomez of Colombia and Team INEOS Grenadiers during the 104th Giro dItalia 2021 Stage 4 a 187km stage from Piacenza to Sestola 1020m Rain girodiitalia Giro UCIworldtour on May 11 2021 in Sestola Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Egan Bernal in between his Ineos Grenadiers teammates on a wet stage 4 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
  • Current rating: ★★★★★
  • Former rating: ★★★★★
  • GC report card: Present and correct

Egan Bernal is riding in the manner of someone who has come to win the Giro. It's been quite clear from the opening days that he is the Ineos team leader and Pavel Sivakov was operating as plan B. His prologue was good considering the route and since then he's always been attentive to what might develop. Particularly impressive is his positioning in the final kilometres, obviously helped by the fact that he has Filippo Ganna keeping him out of danger but don't underestimate how hard something like that is to do when you're basically a climber. It costs masses of energy, both physically and mentally, when it would be easier to sit a bit further back and hope nothing goes wrong. He's serious about conserving or even capitalising on his chances which was seen when he went across to Mikel Landa's attack on the first uphill finish. No signs of a bad back so far and the entire Ineos armada at his disposal from now on.

Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious)

CATTOLICA ITALY MAY 12 Mikel Landa Meana of Spain and Team Bahrain Victorious Francois Bidard of France and AG2R Citren Team are involved in an accident during the 104th Giro dItalia 2021 Stage 5 a 177km stage from Modena to Cattolica Crash Injury girodiitalia Giro on May 12 2021 in Cattolica Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

A sad end to the Giro d'Italia for Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
  • Current rating: DNF
  • Former rating: ★★★★☆
  • GC report card: Riding like someone looking to win until calamity struck

Landa was going oh so well and then, as has happened too often in the past, calamity struck. It's disappointing not only for the Basque rider but also the entertainment that he looked very likely to provide when the proper climbing arrived. He had been riding in the manner of someone who was looking to win the race, Bahrain were positioning him well, he hadn't been seen asleep down the back and to attack on the slopes of Colle Passerino meant he was in good shape and feeling strong despite the dreadful weather. The gap established that day to rivals like Yates and Remco Evenepoel might not have been substantial but it was the first blow in the psychological warfare that is riding a GC race. Hopefully he'll recover quickly and be at the Tour de France.

Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo)

CATTOLICA ITALY MAY 12 Hugh Carthy of United Kingdom and Team EF Education Nippo during the 104th Giro dItalia 2021 Stage 5 a 177km stage from Modena to Cattolica girodiitalia Giro on May 12 2021 in Cattolica Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) on stage 5 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
  • Current rating: ★★★★☆
  • Former rating: ★★★★☆
  • GC report card: Steady improvement and a very solid four stars

Hugh Carthy continues his rise up the hierarchy. Following up an excellent TT  performance by making it into the select group of team leaders who were still strong enough to respond to the Landa acceleration on stage 4, the EF Education rider has confirmed his status as a major contender for a top placing in Milan. He's been quietly going about his business of surviving the opening week's chaos and though the team don't have the ultimate strength of the biggest squads they are doing a good job of staying out of trouble. With 3 proper climbing days to come before the first rest day things are looking good for Jonathan Vaughters' riders.

Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana Premier-Tech)

TURIN ITALY MAY 06 Aleksander Vlasov of Russia and Team Astana Premier Tech during the 104th Giro dItalia 2021 Team Presentation at Castello el Valentino Mask Covid safety measures girodiitalia Giro on May 06 2021 in Turin Italy Photo by Stuart FranklinGetty Images

Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana Premier-Tech) at the team presentation (Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Current rating: ★★★★☆
  • Former rating: ★★★★☆
  • GC report card: Leading the four star group with Carthy and Improvement on the horizon

Aleksandr Vlasov has confirmed his Tour of the Alps form with a more than decent prologue as well as surviving the cold and rain with equal aplomb. Astana haven't looked like they would be caught out when the pressure is on and Vlasov has being doing what he needs to do. Following the moves, not wasting energy and generally staying attentive. As the first weekend of climbing approaches the tall Russian is in a good position to profit from any hesitations from his rivals. He looks more than ready to attack given the opportunity.

Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep)

Giro dItalia 2021 104th Edition 4th stage Piacenza Sestola 187 km 11052021 Remco Evenepoel BEL Deceuninck QuickStep photo Luca BettiniBettiniPhoto2021

Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) on the fourth stage of the Giro d'Italia (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
  • Current rating: ★★★★☆
  • Former rating: ★★★★☆
  • GC report card: Working well with more to come

Remco Evenepoel still has the eyes of northern Europe following his every move. The nine month layoff due to last season's injury hasn't dented his time trialling abilities and though he had to cede a few seconds to a few of his GC rivals on the first uphill finish it wasn't a disaster in any way. Deceuninck-QuickStep have protected their young star as expected of one of the favourites and, now that Almeida has dropped back, any possible discussion as to who rides for who is over. As Evenepoel said himself the race efforts have been a bit of a shock so it'll be interesting to see how he gets through the high mountains in the coming days.

João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep)

Team Deceuninck rider Portugals Joao Almeida waves from the presentation podium prior to take the start of the fourth stage of the Giro dItalia 2021 cycling race 187 km between Piacenza and Sestola EmiliaRomagna on May 11 2021 Photo by Luca Bettini AFP Photo by LUCA BETTINIAFP via Getty Images

João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) before stage 4 of the Giro d'Italia (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
  • Current rating: ★★★☆☆
  • Former rating: ★★★★☆
  • GC report card: Barely held onto three stars as he hasn't passed the first test

João Almeida unfortunately hasn't backed up his prologue performance and now seems to be out of the fight for the overall victory. Colle Passerino was fatal to his hopes after a long day in the cold and rain,  with no fight left as he rolled over the line either he made a mistake in his nutrition that day or the overall fatigue of the constant up and down caught up with him. At best he has the possibility of recovering some time if he goes on the offensive in the next few days otherwise he's at the service of Evenepoel. In the game of contract negotiations Patrick Lefevre comes out shining again.

Jai Hindley (Team DSM)

Giro d'Italia 2021 - 104th Edition - Torino - Castello del Valentino - Team Presentation - 06/05/2021 - Jai Hindley (AUS - Team DSM) - photo Luca Bettini/BettiniPhoto©2021

Jai Hindley (Team DSM) at the Giro d'Italia team presentation (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
  • Current rating: ★★★½☆
  • Former rating: ★★★½☆
  • GC report card: Still on three-and-a-half stars but that's being generous

Treading water and can only be hoping that like 2020 he improves when the proper big climbs have to be negotiated. DSM have been paying attention to the needs of last year's runner-up throughout most of the flatter stages but when the frantic last hour begins they seem to have difficulty keeping him in position. Giro sprint stages are the fastest of all the Grand Tours and the race level looks higher than the previous edition so Hindley suffering from the stresses involved and the poor weather is no surprise. How he'll recover is the big question because he doesn't seem to be threatening at the moment. Luckily or unluckily Romain Bardet lurks in the background.

Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation)

SESTOLA ITALY MAY 11 Daniel Martin of Ireland and Team Israel StartUp Nation during the 104th Giro dItalia 2021 Stage 4 a 187km stage from Piacenza to Sestola 1020m girodiitalia Giro UCIworldtour on May 11 2021 in Sestola Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
  • Current rating: ★★★½☆
  • Former rating: ★★★½☆
  • GC report card: Stuck on three-and-a-half stars but could and can do better

Dan Martin has coped with the first few days of the race better than I expected.  To his credit he's kept himself well positioned during the hectic finals and been properly supported by his teammates. The freeze-fest of stage 4 wasn't favourable to him but it wasn't fatal either so he's lurking in the background, probably hoping that it's at least dry for the looming mountains. His prologue result was the worst of the GC riders so he can't afford to lose ten or twenty seconds here and there if he's aiming for a podium spot.

The ★★★☆☆ group

CANALE ITALY MAY 10 George Bennett of New Zealand and Team Jumbo Visma at start during the 104th Giro dItalia 2021 Stage 3 a 190km stage from Biella to Canale Trofeo Senza Fine Trophy Team Presentation girodiitalia Giro on May 10 2021 in Canale Italy Photo by Stuart FranklinGetty Images

George Bennett (Jumbo Visma) before stage 3 and before the wet conditions of stage 4 took their toll (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
  • Holding station: Marc Soler (Movistar), Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates).
  • On the rise: Romain Bardet (Team DSM) and Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo), both risking to become de facto leaders of their respective teams when the nominated number ones falter.
  • It's a harsh world: George Bennett (Jumbo Visma) looks broken and Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) is.