Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step) won Thursday’s fifth stage of the 2010 Giro d’Italia after working a nearly day-long four-man breakaway and outlasting the chase pack by seconds.
Overnight race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas Doimo) finished safely in the main pack to retain the maglia rosa — the first time in this Giro that the same man will wear the leader’s jersey for more than one stage.
“It was very fast right through the last kilometers,” said Nibali. “We were all struggling in the final and there was a lot of tension in the group that costs a lot of energy. One thing that will always remain etched into my memory is having the honor of riding through the hometown of Fausto Coppi in Castellania with the maglia rosa on my shoulders.”
Pineau was the day’s hero, however, as he and two of his breakaway companions of 135 kilometers somehow managed to fend off a huge chase that appeared to have them caught with 1.5 km to go.
The main pack seemed to stop to catch its breath when the three leaders refused to give up the fight. Pineau timed it just right to slice across the line for victory just four seconds ahead of the fast-charging peloton led by Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions).
“A breakaway is only successful if you cross the line first,” Pineau said philosophically after winning for the first time in five years. “After five long years, I’ve finally won again. After a bad classics, I asked my team to take to me the Giro and now I’ve taken the most important victory of my career.”
The early break
The day’s stage was a relatively short 162-kilometer race from Novara to Novi Ligure.
After a flurry of attacks in the opening kilometers, by KM27 the aggressors formed a significant break, initiated by Japan’s Yukiya Arashiro (BBox Bouygues Telecom). With no real GC threats in the break, Liquigas was content to give them some playing space.
“It was very fast right from the start, but now that there are some gaps in the GC, breakaways are allowed to go away,” said Cervélo’s Carlos Sastre, who finished safely in the bunch. “There was a tailwind and it was fast all day. We were going 65kph and the break was gaining time.”
- Julien Fouchard (Cofidis), 104th at 11:04
- Pineau, 113th at 11:24
- Arashiro, 134th at 11:50
- Paul Voss (Milram) 149th at 12:48
The break rolled up a maximum lead of nearly five minutes. Voss, who led the KOM competition after snagging some ‘summit’ points on stage 2 in Holland, made sure he would hold the green climber’s jersey at least another day by snagging the first-place points on offer on both of the day’s categorized climbs. His breakmates were happy to let him take the points uncontested.
Meanwhile, Liquigas controlled the front of the race, with Lampre taking over the front in the final 50km, hoping to give sprinter Alessandro Petacchi a chance to show his stuff.
Still, there was some suspense as the break boasted a four-minute lead with 40km to go, as the pack worked its way over the climbs and some sometimes-wet twisty roads, where a few riders took some minor falls in the turns.
As the peloton entered the flatter road approaching the finish, the mighty freight train powered by sprint-hungry teams began rolling up the gap to the tiring foursome. Garmin-Transitions, hoping to set up Tyler Farrar for a repeat of his stage 2 win, sent Svein Tuft to the front with 35km to go. The chase steamed on at about 50kph on the flats and the peloton strung out to the breaking point. HTC-Columbia joined in at the pointy end of the chase, laboring for their fast man, Andre Greipel.
Up front, Voss was the first to lose his grip on the break and faded back to the pack with about 25km to go, as the gap closed to 2:30.
“I wanted to be in the breakaway today to hold on to my jersey if possible. We controlled the attacks and made that my rivals didn’t get away,” Voss said after the stage. “In the end, I simply ran out of gas and had to fall back. It never occurred to me that the break would make it all the way. I am overjoyed with my performance today.”
After Voss was caught, Milram felt obligated to join the chase, in the name of the team’s Robert Forster. Nibali’s Liquigas squad had a dog in the fight, too: sprinter Fabio Sabatini. It was a classic battle among the teams to set up their respective sprinter delivery systems while simultaneously closing the gap to the remaining three riders. The trio still had over a minute with 10km to go as the race entered narrow roads that gave the nimble breakaway an advantage over the lumbering chase.
The chase group was pitiless, however, hitting 60 kph into Novi Ligure. At 4km to go the gap was 30 seconds and falling.
At 1.5km to go, it appeared the three were caught, but Arashiro made an attack and then Pineau and Fouchard followed and the three dangled just seconds ahead coming into the final meters.
With one last look over his shoulder, Quick Step’s 30-year-old Frenchman jumped with less than 300 meters to go to take the win.
“Strangely, I was confident we would make it when we hit 1,500 meters,” said the wily Pineau. “For once, I didn’t lose my nerve and my legs responded. Arashiro was the strongest of us three today, but he started his sprint too soon.”
Farrar led in the chase pack four seconds later, but he had to be satisfied with fourth.
Farrar is now tied with Pineau for the points jersey, with 39 points each. Pineau also won the day’s most aggressive rider’s prize, though many thought that should have gone to Arashiro.
Friday’s 172km stage from Fidanza to Carrara heads south across the Apennines and includes the first three significant climbs of the race, including an uphill finish. That tough stage precedes two spectacular days over the weekend: the 222km stage 7 through Tuscany on Saturday with its two 10km-long stretches of strade bianche; and Sunday’s 189km journey from Chianciano to Monte Terminillo, which includes this Giro’s first mountaintop finish, at Monte Terminillo. (Related: 2010 Giro route details)
- Thursday’s stage was included to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the untimely death of cycling great Fausto Coppi. While largely flat, the stage featured two short Category 3 climbs: the Avolasca, which summited at 97.3km and the“Passo Coppi” climb near the village of Castellania, where Coppi was born (and buried). The race went over that summit at 111.4km.
- Pineau’s win was the first Giro stage win by a Frenchman since Christophe Le Mevel’s 2005 win — also out of a long breakaway, but by more than 22 minutes ahead of the pack.