Nearly a quarter of an hour after Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) had crossed the Giro’s stage 5 finish line with his arms raised in victory, Ineos Grenadiers' co-leader Pavel Sivakov pedalled wearily under the same gantry and past the lines of photographers waiting for Ewan to go onto the podium, last on the stage and with his GC aspirations in shreds.
A few hours after the conclusion of the stage, Ineos Grenadiers announced on social media that Sivakov would abandon the race, stating: "Unfortunately, Pavel Sivakov has been forced to withdraw from the Giro d'Italia after injuring his shoulder in a crash on today's stage. All the best for a speedy recovery Pavel!"
With some 18 kilometres to go, as the peloton suddenly shifted left, the Russian, set to co-lead Ineos Grenadiers in the Giro d’Italia this year, was squeezed towards the side of the road, found himself with nowhere to go and went spinning off his bike.
Although his injuries at the time were not so bad that he could not remount, by the time he did so, the peloton had long since disappeared down the road. An Ineos Grenadiers' team vehicle slowed briefly to check on his condition, but by then Sivakov knew that any chance of fighting for GC was over, and later his race was over altogether.
Sivakov had already lost a little time on stage – 28 seconds to the group of favourites led home by teammate Egan Bernal. But Wednesday’s defeat was far more serious, with Bernal now the British squad’s sole GC leader.
Ineos Grenadiers have already had a hugely successful start to the Giro thanks to Filippo Ganna’s stage 1 win and three-day spell in the lead. But while Bernal is clearly in strong form, his teammate Sivakov’s abrupt and undeserved exit from the race represents an important blow.
“I’m sorry for him because he was going very well. [But] worse things have happened in past years and we know how to roll up our sleeves and go on,” Ineos Grenadiers sports director Matteo Tosatto had told Cyclingnews before the withdrawal, also stating he hoped Sivakov "hasn’t hurt himself badly or broken anything."
While Sivakov was hoping to put recent personal history behind him at the Giro d’Italia after his bad double crash in the earliest days of the Tour de France in 2020, for Ineos Grenadiers there were unwelcome echoes of what happened to the team last year in the Giro, when their GC leader Geraint Thomas crashed hard even before the race had left Sicily in the first week.
When Tosatto was reminded by Cyclingnews that Ineos Grenadiers had reworked their strategies in similarly difficult circumstance last year, he said, “Yes, but I’d prefer it if nobody fell and we got to Milan with eight riders. The important thing is to be strong in these moments and we’ll look ahead to tomorrow’s [Thursday’s] stage.”
Bernal ready for more climbing
Speaking before the stage began and his teammate’s Giro GC aspirations went up in smoke, Ineos Grenadiers other leader for the overall classification, Egan Bernal, confirmed that he was very satisfied with his aggressive racing on the Giro’s extremely tough stage 4 on Tuesday.
However, he warned that it is not possible to over-analyse what happened on the ultra-steep, rain-soaked slopes of the Colle Passerino, an opinion shared by Matteo Tossato later.
For many, the Colombian’s searing acceleration and insistent driving at the head of the little group which formed has all but wiped out the question marks over Bernal’s condition after his injury plagued 2020 season. But Bernal warned that it was only the first climbing test of the Giro this year.
“It was a good stage for us on Tuesday, the first tough climb of the Giro, so I can be very pleased with how I went,” Bernal said “But tomorrow’s [Thursday’s] stage has a very different kind of finish climb, it’s much longer for one thing.
“Tuesday’s ascent was short but very hard, and it was rainy and cold, so you shouldn’t draw too many conclusions."
Asked if he was pleased with how he had managed to gain time on several of the big favourites, including Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange), Bernal said, “It didn’t matter who moved, I had to be up there."
The final ascent on stage 6, the Ascoli Piceno, is classified second category, like the Colle Passerino. But at 15.5 kilometres and an average gradient of 6.1 per cent, it is a quarter of the Passerino’s length and far less steep.
After finishing stage 5 to Cattolica in 17th place, safely in the peloton, Thursday represents another important test for Bernal. And after Ineos Grenadier’s loss of a co-leader, the Colombian’s performance will be even more important.
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