After paying its respects to Wouter Weylandt on yesterday’s stage into Livorno, the Giro d’Italia peloton returned to racing in earnest today with a thrilling Stage 5 over the strade bianche of Tuscany to a hilltop finish in the ancient Umbrian town of Orvieto. The stage was won by Rabobank's Pieter Weening, who managed to stay ahead of a chasing pack containing the main GC contenders to also take the maglia rosa, but there was cause for concern as his team mate Tom Slagter suffered a bad fall some 20km out.
The 21-year-old, who only turned pro with the Dutch team last year, was able to move his arm following the incident, but remained prostate on the ground for a long time as he received medical treatment. Subsequent reports said that he'd cut his head but was conscious and able to talk, which is welcome news.
Last year’s strade bianche stage to Montalcino, won by BMC Racing’s Cadel Evans, provided some of the most memorable images from any race in 2010 with rain turning the white gravelled roads into mud.
With cloudless blue skies today, there was no repeat of those conditions, but instead it was dust that caused the riders problems on the 20km or so of the rough roads that had been included on today’s course.
Evans isn’t racing in this year’s Giro, but it was another BMC Racing rider, Switzerland’s Martin Kohler, who took the initiative, launching a solo attack shortly after the start and not getting caught until there were a little over 10km left of the 191km stage.
It was Jean Gadret of AG2R and Weening who had broken off the front of the chasing group to catch the Swiss rider as the undulating terrain and the strade bianche caused the peloton to string out, a number of riders also suffering mechanical issues.
Weening attacked on his own inside the closing 10km, but as the road headed upwards towards the finish in Orvieto, big guns were massing behind him, with Michele Scarponi launching an attack but pulled back thanks to the efforts of Team Sky’s Thomas Lovkvist. Somehow the 30-year-old, a past Tour de France stage winner, had enough in his tank to stay clear.
The pursuers were led home by Fabio Duarte of Geox followed by Jose Rodolfo Serpa of Androni Giocattoli, with the names expected to feature in the battle for the GC rolling over the line behind him. Marco Pinotto of HTC-Highroad, who took the maglia rosa after Saturday's team time trial, moved back up to second overall, with team mate Kanstantsin Siutsou third.
Well ahead of the first section of strade bianche, which came some 40km from the finish, there was drama as maglia rosa David Millar of Garmin-Cervelo and the man second in the general classification, Angel Vicioso of Androni Giocattoli, hit the deck as both chased vital bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint at Arcidosso.
Vicioso, who had won Monday’s stage in Rapallo as the drama surrounding Weylandt unfolded behind him on the Passo del Bocco, appeared to drift across Millar’s line, clipping his front wheel and bringing both riders down, although the Scot could perhaps have anticipated the collision.
The chase to get back on eventually took its toll as Millar proved unable to hold on to the iconic jersey. While he is now one of a select group of riders to have worn the leader’s jersey in all three grand tours, his spell in it will be best remembered for the eloquent and dignified way in which he helped formulate the peloton’s response to Monday’s tragedy.
Giro d’Italia Stage 5 result 1 WEENING Pieter Rabobank 4:54:49 2 DUARTE Fabio Geox TMC at 0:08 3 SERPA Jose Androni Giocattoli 4 LE MEVEL Christophe Garmin-Cervelo 5 GATTO Oscar Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli 6 NIBALI Vincenzo Liquigas 7 CONTADOR Alberto Saxo Bank-SunGard 8 SCARPONI Michele Lampre-ISD 9 RODRIGUEZ Joaquin Katusha 10 KREUZIGER Roman Astana 11 KRUIJSWIJK Steven Rabobank 12 LOVKVIST Thomas Team Sky 13 PINOTTI Marco HTC Highroad 14 SIVTSOV Kanstantsin HTC Highroad 15 GARZELLI Stefano Acqua & Sapone 16 MENCHOV Denis Geox TMC 17 ARROYO David Movistar 18 KISERLOVSKI Robert Astana 19 CATALDO Dario Quickstep 20 ANTON Igor Euskaltel-Euskadi Giro d’Italia General Classification after Stage 5 1 WEENING Pieter Rabobank 14:59:33 2 PINOTTI Marco HTC-Highroad at 0:02 3 SIVTSOV Kanstantsin HTC-Highroad 0:02 4 LE MEVEL Christophe Garmin-Cervelo 0:05 5 LASTRAS Pablo Movistar 0:22 6 NIBALI Vincenzo Liquigas 0:24 7 SCARPONI Michele Lampre-ISD 0:26 8 KRUIJSWIJK Steven Rabobank 0:28 9 CONTADOR Alberto Saxo Bank-SunGard 0:30 10 SERPA Jose Androni Giocattoli 0:33
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.