The German was seven points ahead of Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) in the rankings after stage 4, where Ackermann took fourth, but 24 hours later the German national champion’s advantage in the points ranking has now mushroomed to 28 points, ahead of Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates).
The next opportunities for the bunch sprinters will likely come on stages 8 - although there are some hills in the finale – and then stages 10 and 11. After that, there is only one more likely stage for the sprinters, on stage 18, midway through a plethora of mountain stages.
But at the same time, Ackermann looks to be strong enough at least to fight for all of these stages - and the Bora-hansgrohe sprinter’s confidence is, as he confirmed after stage 5, at an all-time high.
“For sure my goal is to come to Verona and why not try to keep the jersey, I think I’m in good shape, and we will still have some more sprints and some more intermediate sprints. For sure I’m going to try to win it,” he told reporters.
Shivering with the cold after a seriously rain-soaked stage from start to finish, and limiting his questions in the press conference to just three as a result, Ackermann said half-jokingly, “today is a day when cyclists are thinking ‘why am I a cyclist?’ It was really cold and wet conditions, we had to change clothing every 20 or 30 minutes, everyone was freezing and I’m looking forward to taking another shower [to get warm]."
Question number three, about the ongoing doping investigation in Austria and its fallout, was met with short shrift. Ackermann simply answered, “a real question, please,” before concluding the press conference.
Previously the German had been much more forthcoming when asked to analyze how he had won the stage. If his first sprint victory on stage 2 was a lengthy drag race against Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), this time it was a fiddly two-part affair won by a smaller margin against Gaviria.
Ackermann had started to wind things up but then had to brake again when a lead-out man from another team caused him and Gaviria to swerve in the middle of their dash for the line.
However, the Colombian’s lengthy sprint allowed him to follow Gaviria as the two regained speed and then Ackermann, showing an impressive ability to produce a double acceleration, blasted past Gaviria to take the win.
"I think this was a two-time sprint for me today because I had to brake in the final 200 metres but then luckily Gaviria was the perfect lead-out for me and I had a lot of power in the end,” Ackermann said.
No matter what the weather, Ackermann’s first ever Grand Tour is turning out to be a dream debut. Although questions had been asked, pre-Giro, about whether BORA-hansgrohe would be better off taking three-time Giro stage winner Sam Bennett or his German team-mate as their main man for the bunch sprints, the 25-year-old has more than answered that question on the road.
And if his ability to compete in a Grand Tour’s bunch sprints is now very clearly established, what is not so certain is whether Ackermann can take the points jersey all the way to Verona and if he can get through the high mountains of the Giro's third week. But the German has certainly made the best of starts.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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