The sprint finish of stage 5 at the Giro d'Italia in Messina will not include top favourites Mark Cavendish (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) after the pair were among the riders tailed off the rear of the peloton on the mid-stage climb.
The 174km day from Catania to Messina was a largely flat stage, save for the second-category climb of Portella Mandrazzi, which peaked after 75.3km.
Heading up the hill, with over 100km left to run, Alpecin-Fenix pushed the pace on the front of the peloton in order to put rival sprinters into as much trouble as possible.
The Dutch team quickly succeeded in their mission as Ewan dropped back midway up the climb while Cavendish was shed 4km from the top. Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) also got into trouble, cresting the top of the climb a minute down while Cavendish and four teammates lay at three minutes and Ewan – also with teammates – was a further 1:30 down.
Up front, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert (for Biniam Girmay) and UAE Team Emirates (for Fernando Gaviria) joined the work along with Alpecin-Fenix, who worked on behalf of maglia ciclamino Mathieu van der Poel.
Démare was able to get back in with 70km to run, but despite the best efforts of QuickStep-AlphaVinyl behind, Cavendish, who won stage 3 in Hungary, was unable to make it back.
The Belgian team brought the gap down to two minutes but appeared to give up the chase at 50km to go. Ewan, even further out of the picture, was also unable to get back to the peloton ahead of the finish.
Come the end of the day, Démare was rewarded for his fightback by outsprinting his rivals to take his first win of 2022, the sixth Giro stage victory of his career. Ewan and Cavendish finished in 155th and 157th, 11:57 down on the Frenchman.
"What can you do, you just have to try," Cavendish said after the stage. "In a different situation, if they happen, you'd probably come back. For instance, we were 30 seconds behind FDJ and Caleb was behind us – ironically if all of us were together we would probably have come back.
"It's just how it is, we had to give it everything, the boys did everything and I'm so proud of them, so proud. In the end, you know, it's all right, we try.
"You are aways disappointed but we knew that was going to happen today. It was a bonus if we could sprint today, but we have to try, and we'll try again."
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Daniel Ostanek is production editor at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired as staff writer. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.
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