Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) won the fifth stage of the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday.
The Italian out-climbed a select group of riders, which included Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), on a summit finish in the town of Viggiano. Ulissi’s win is the first for an Italian in this year’s race.
Evans narrowly placed second ahead of Julian David Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing).
Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) finished sixth to stay in the race lead and will wear the pink jersey for the fourth consecutive day tomorrow. His teammate Pieter Weening is second at 14 seconds back, while Evans is another tick behind in third.
The 203-kilometer stage began in Taranto and ended with a Cat. 4 climb into Viggiano, followed by a twisty and technical descent and one more ascent into the town.
A small group of riders dueled over the final kilometer of racing, with Evans, Matthews, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), and Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) all in the mix. Roche attacked at the 1km banner, a move that drew a serious response from his competitors.
With 500 meters left, it was anyone’s race to win. Seconds later, Evans started to bolt forward and appeared poised to win the stage before Ulissi rode up the left side of the road and took the lead. With pain on all of the riders’ faces as they pressed toward the line, Ulissi was able to hold everyone off for the victory.
“After days with rain and cold, my legs are not at their best,” Evans said in a team release. “In the final I was a little blocked with one kilometer to go and without help. But I got back in front and into second place. In the end, I am happy about the result.”
With rain falling on the first climb into Viggiano, the peloton was in for a difficult descent on the twisty, rain-slicked roads. A few riders even went down on the climb and caused a slight traffic jam near the back of the main pack. After that, BMC took over the peloton’s pulling duties from Orica, which spent most of the day pacing the field.
At the start of the descent, it was clear speeds would be slow on the poor road conditions. But one rider — Gianluca Brambilla (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) — showed no fear. The Italian hammered it, taking aggressive lines around the hairpin turns and building a lot of speed on the straight sections. He quickly built an 18-second advantage.
Other riders weren’t so lucky, as a handful of them slid out on the slippery road. None of them appeared seriously injured and all got back on their bikes and kept going.
Brambilla still led the race with 4km left and it appeared he might have the strength to earn the solo victory. But soon the gap began falling. Two kilometers later it was down to nine seconds, and with 1.4km left Brambilla was caught after his legs gave up.
A group of 11 riders, which included American sprinter Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), broke away from the peloton 3km into the stage. They rode out front for much of the day, building a max lead of almost 6 minutes.
The peloton seemed content to sit up and let the escapees do their thing, knowing full well they would be caught late in the race when the road pitched toward the sky.
And that’s exactly what happened. The gap hovered around 2-3 minutes in the final 60km of racing. With 35km left it was down to about 2:00.
The group began to fracture and many of the riders dropped back to the peloton after that. Bjorn Thurau (Europcar) was the last survivor but was caught shortly before the first ascent into Viggiano.
The Giro continues with Thursday’s stage 6 from Sassano to Montecassino. At 247km, it is the second longest stage of the race.