A rain-soaked stage five of the Giro d’Italia was not kind to quite a few big names in the peloton, with GC hopefuls and sprinters alike laid low in the waning kilometers of Wednesday’s race to Salerno.
As it turned out, a stray dog running into the road causing Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) to hit the deck earlier in the day was only a mere antipasto for the main course of crashes served up in the finale.
Primož Roglič, Mark Cavendish, and Evenepoel (again) were among the stars who went down, all in separate crashes in the final 15 minutes of the race. Fortunately for the two top GC favorites, both riders finished on the same time as the pack, while Cavendish managed to land a top five in the sprint – despite crossing the line mid-crash – behind winner Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck).
After Evenepoel’s first mishap in the first hour of the race, the final flurry of pileups occurred inside the last 10 km as the peloton was closing in on Samuele Zoccaroto (Green Project-Bardiani), the last survivor from the early break.
On roads that had accumulated water throughout a rainy afternoon, there was a crash in the bunch as riders made their way through the final major turn on the route, a rightward bend. Up front with his Soudal – Quick Step teammates, Remco Evenepoel remained upright.
Further back, Roglič went down in the pile up. Also downed were would-be sprint contenders Fernando Gaviria (Movistar) and Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates). Meanwhile, race leader Andreas Leknessund (DSM) was caught out behind the split created by the crash.
Roglič and the pink jersey were quickly back on bikes (with the Slovenian taking a bike from a teammate) and they mounted a determined chase. Although Soudal – Quick Step took to the front of their much-reduced new group, the pace they set was a modest one, allowing the Roglič and Leknessund group to reconnect just as the pack reached the 3 km safe zone.
Almost immediately there was another crash on the right side of the road, and this time world champion and Giro favorite Remco Evenepoel was unable to avoid the chaos. A few hours after the stray dog, Evenepoel had hit the deck again, albeit within the final 3 km and thus without any risk of losing time as long as he finished the stage.
He took his time getting up, gesticulating frustratedly towards his team car, and even after he remounted and started pedalling again, he continued to express his anger as he told his team what had happened while riding alongside the car to the finish.
But there was still drama to come. Finally, the last few moments of the race involved one more crash, a particularly spectacular incident that saw Cavendish hurtling across the finish line sideways, still (sort of) holding onto his bike but no longer in the saddle.
The crash occurred as a result of Cavendish’s coming together with Alberto Dainese (DSM), who was later relegated for his role in the incident. With some 150 meters to go, Cavendish began to start his sprint but lost traction on the road paint. He throttled down and moved from the middle of the road to his right, slightly behind Dainese, who moments later proceeded to surge forward and to his left, right into Cavendish’s path. The British sprinter then began to lose his balance, colliding with Filippo Fiorelli (Green Project-Bardiani) and then swinging into the middle of the road.
When Fiorelli rode into the barriers, his body knocked a cellphone out of the hand of a spectator, whose wrist seemed to bear the brunt of the collision.
As he came off his bike and hurtled forward, Cavendish crossed the finish line, still managing a fifth place finish at first but taking other riders, including David Dekker of Arkéa-Samsic, down with him as he went over the line. Cavendish’s result was later registered as an even better fourth-place finish due to the relegation of Dainese.
When all was said and done, Cavendish seemed generally unhurt, and he confirmed after the stage that he was feeling OK. “I’ve had my wounds cleaned up and my knee is a little bit sore,” he said. “I don’t think anything is broken. I haven’t had anything checked out yet but I don’t have the pain of anything broken.”
As for the GC hopefuls, both Roglič and Evenepoel finished with the same time as the stage winner, but the true impact of the various mishaps late in the day are yet to be fully revealed. In the aftermath of the crash-marred finale, João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) summed things up succinctly.
“Today was four hours of race and I lost like four years of life,” Almeida said. “It was not amazing.”