Giro d'Italia Stage 5: Diego Ulissi strongest in tough finale, Michael Matthews retains lead
Lampre-Merida rider prevails from select bunch in first uphill finish of this year's race...

Diego Ulissi of Lampre-Merida has won Stage 5 of the Giro d’Italia after proving strongest in a tough finish from a select group in Viggiano this afternoon. Cadel Evan of BMC Racing was second, with Julian Arredondo of Colombia third. Orica-GreenEdge’s Michael Matthews was among the riders contesting the finish, coming home in sixth place, and retains the overall lead.

Gianluca Brambilla of Omega Pharma-Quick Step was out in front on his own as he began the final ascent, after gettng away on what proved to be a difficult descent with the roads made slippery by the rain, which had abated by the time the road headed uphill again for the final 7 kilometres or so to the finish.

Behind him, by the time there were 2kilometres left to go, the group including race leader Matthews had been thinned out to around 30 or so riders and with Katusha forcing the pace,  Brambilla’s lead was slashed to a handful of seconds.

With the Italian reeled in, Tinkoff-Saxo’s Nicolas Roche launched an attack as he passed under the flamme rouge, but he was quickly brought back. Others including Team Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen and Katusha’s

Today’s 200km stage from Taranto took the race through the seldom-visited region of Basilicata in the instep of Italy’s boot and home to  AG2R rider Domenico Pozzovivo, whose fans were out in force at the roadside on a day when the peloton was buffeted by wind throughout.

With the rain falling as the main group headed up the climb to Viggiano and the first passage of the finish line, the diminutive Italian was among a number of riders held up behind a crash, and had to battle back on a twisting descent to rejoin the front of the race, but the effort cost him in the finale ad he finished ninth.

The day’s break comprised 11 riders, including sprinters such as Team Sky’s Ben Swift, Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Sharp, and Cannondale’s Elia Viviani.

The latter took second place behind Swift at the intermediate sprint to put him above yesterday’s stage winner, FDJ.fr’s Nacer Bouhanni, in the points classification.

Heading up the penultimate climb, Bouhanni was already in the grupetto at the back of the peloton, confirmation that it will be Viviani who wears the red jersey tomorrow.

After securing his second career Giro d'Italia stage win today, Ulissi said: "When I looked at the race handbook before the Giro, I earmarked this stage because the finish lent itself perfectly to my characteristics. It’s no secret that I like this type of finish, and the press had included me among the favourites.

“It was a very hard finish after a stage ridden in wind and rain.I was held up behind a fall on a climb, 17 km from the finish, where I had to put a foot down. My team-mates brought me up to the group, and when Moreno attacked, I was 5th wheel: I didn’t want to be at the front in the sprint because of the wind. Quintana couldn’t keep the rhythm, so a gap opened. My team-mates closed it and led me up to Matthews wheel. Then the sprint started, and it went well for me.

“Winning a stage at the Giro is wonderful for an Italian rider, and it’s doubly important because I’ve beaten real champions today. I’ve always wanted to develop gradually. I turned professional very young - I’m still 24 - but I’ve won 16 races, 2 Giro stages, other World Tour stages, and, in the last 2 years, I’ve improved, thanks, in part, to Michele Bartoli, who is an fantastic coach and a great motivator.

"Sometimes I ‘m beaten before I start, so I need to improve in that, and Michele really helps me with my confidence. Last night, before I went to bed, I visualised winning and then going through all the commitments that come afterwards, and it helped me. I had a disappointing Ardennes classics season this spring, and I hope it doesn’t happen again. In fact, I’m hoping that this Giro turns things around for me.”

Matthews, who stays in the race lead for a fifth day, said of the stage finish: "It didn’t quite pan out the way I thought. I had a mental picture in which there were lots of attacks, but I think everyone was pinned and no one could get away.

"I think it was Quintana who dropped the wheel in front, so it was up to me to close the gap, Rodriguez and team mates were ahead, with Edvald Boasson Hagen. I was a bit pinned when I got to them and I didn’t quite have the sprint I would have liked. But up to there, I was good.

“Today’s stage was the big goal for me. We showed we really deserved this jersey. We proved today that we have a really strong team, because to keep the jersey and to be able to have a good crack at the finish you need a good team. They set a tempo that didn’t really let anyone move. They did an amazing job. To be in the final with all these climbers is really nice for me.”

Looking ahead to tomorrow's stage to Montecassino, he added: “My goal was to keep the Maglia Rosa until tomorrow, and then reassess things day by day. But today went pretty well for me, so we’ll certainly have a good crack at it tomorrow.

"After that I’m not really sure. The next few stages will be pretty key for the team. It’s been a great honour for us and we’ve had a really good trip so far so we’ll try and keep the ball rolling.”

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.