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Giro d’Italia: Echelons, rain could disrupt sprinters on stage 5

Team AlpecinFenix rider Belgiums Tim Merlier L crosses the finish line to win the second stage of the Giro dItalia 2021 cycling race 179 km between Stupinigi and Novara Piedmont on May 9 2021 Photo by Luca Bettini AFP Photo by LUCA BETTINIAFP via Getty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

After a day of suffering on the steep Appenines climbs under a cold and insistent rain, the sprinters return to the fore on stage 5 to Cattolica, the flattest stage of the Giro d’Italia.

The 175km stage cuts through Emilia Romagna from Modena to the Adriatic coast like an arrow on the Via Emilia, with only the risk of crosswinds and echelons in the second half of the stage likely to concern the sprinters and their teams. The stage is so flat that the race organisers were unable to find a climb to award points in the mountains classification. 

The overall contenders will be hoping for a quiet day in the peloton during the long ride to the coast, swapping roles with the sprinters, who tried to save their legs and strength on the climbs to Sestola. They will be aware of the risk of echelons, rain showers, and of the four 90 degree corners in the final three kilometres in the centre of Cattolica before a straight final kilometre.   

There are seven stages that can potentially finish in a sprint finish and Cattolica is number three.

Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) won in Novara on stage 1, while Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché - Wanty) stole the sprinters' glory on stage 2 to Canale.

Merlier wears the points jersey and is the new sprinter of the pack. He faces major competition from Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Dylan Groenegwegen (Jumbo-Visma), Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhuebeka Assos), Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-Up Nation), and Elia Viviani (Cofidis).

Viviani suffered the most during the stage to Sestola, finishing 182nd, at 30:56. Attilio Viviani was last of all in 183rd place after he escorted his older brother during a day of suffering.   

“I woke up feeling ill and went to the bathroom several times before the start,” Viviani revealed to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“I also paid the price of trying to stay on during the stage to Canale and then it was a hard, hard stage. The important thing was to finish, to survive but I felt empty afterwards.” 

“Today is another day. The shape is there, I just need to find the right day,” Viviani said at the start in Modena. 

“When you sprint near the coast, there’s always lots of roundabouts, corners and small roads. You don’t win the sprint before the line but you can lose it today if you are badly placed. 

“Fabio Sabatini will lead us into the finale and then Simone Consonni will be my leadout man because he’s got super strong legs. We’ve learnt that the more up front we are, the more we’re in the game, so we’ll try to be very precise in the final part of the stage, so that I can play my game and try to be the fastest. 

“For sure Merlier is the favourite and then there’s Gaviria, Caleb Ewan and the rest. It’s only stage 5, everyone is still fresh and so everyone is ready to sprint.”