Giro d'Italia Stage 5: John Degenkolb avoids late crash in Matera to take first Giro stage
German profits from Argos-Shimano team mate's crash to ride away in finale
John Degenkolb, winner of five stages in last year's Vuelta, has won his maiden Giro d'Italia stage in Matera this afternoon. The German's victory came after a crash on the penultimate corner, caused by Argos-Shimano team mate Luka Mezgec losing control on a road still wet from an earlier downpour, ruled a number of his rivals for the win out of contention.
The rider who went down had been sitting second in the group behind Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox's Marco Canola, who tried to hold on for what would have been the UCI Professional Continental outfit's second win in as many days.
However, Degenkolb passed him with a couple of hundred metres left. Katusha's Angel Vicioso finished second, with Blanco's Paul Martens third. Katusha's Luca Paolini managed to avoid the crash and retains the race leader's maglia rosa.
Degenkolb was among a handful of sprinters who had managed to retain contact with the front group on a 203km stage from Cosenza that represented the first realistic chance of a stage finish since the opening day in Naples.
In particular, the first of those climbs, which was short but punchy with a maximum gradient of more than 10 per cent ahead of the summit, crested 20 kilometres out, presented a big obstacle to any chance of a bunch finish.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Mark Cavendish pushed himself to his limits to get up it, zig-zagging across the road on the to try and cope with the toughest section, but he crossed it the best part of a minute after the first riders had gone over.
The former world champion would get some unexpected help from his former colleagues at Team Sky to try and rejoin the front group after Rigoberto Uran, lying second on GC this morning and a potential leader of the British outfit’s challenge should anything happen to Bradley Wiggins, punctured.
While the final climb to Matera ahead of an undulating last 9km was gentler than the one that preceded it, Cavendish was unable to get back across to the front group ahead of the start of the ascent, putting paid to his chances of challenging for the win today.
A number of attacks inside the closing kilometres were pulled back, including one by Farnese Vini-Selle Italia’s Marco Rabottini, winner of a stage and the mountains jersey in last year’s Giro, and another by AG2R’s Hubert Dupont as BMC Racing forced the pace, looking to set up Cadel Evans.
Inside the final kilometre though, the smart money would have been on Degenkolb to prevail on the type of finish that suits him if he’s around to challenge – although the manner of his victory turned out to be unexpected.
Uran - rumoured this morning to be leaving Sky at the end of the season together with compatriot Sergio Henao, coincidentally on a day when it was confirmed that Richie Porte's contract has been extended - managed to rejoin the front group and remains second on GC, while Wiggins remains sixth, 34 seconds down on leader Paolini.
Giro d’Italia Stage 5 result 1 DEGENKOLB John ARG 04:37:48 2 VICIOSO Angel KAT All at same time 3 MARTENS Paul BLA 4 HENAO Sergio SKY 5 TRENTIN Matteo OPQ 6 PANTANO Jarlinson COL 7 OSS Daniel BMC 8 KEUKELEIRE Jens OGE 9 BOLE Grega VCD 10 KANGERT Tanel AST 11 GOLAS Michal OPQ 12 CANOLA Marco BAR 13 RODRIGUEZ Jackson AND 14 VIVIANI Elia CAN 15 BOUHANNI Nacer FDJ 16 DE GREEF Francis LTB 17 MAJKA Rafal TST 18 NIEMIEC Przemyslaw LAM 19 ROSA Diego AND 20 SANTAMBROGIO Mauro VIN Overall Standings after Stage 5 1 PAOLINI Luca KAT 19:56:39 2 URAN Rigoberto SKY 00:17 3 INTXAUSTI Benat MOV 00:26 4 NIBALI Vincenzo AST 00:31 5 HESJEDAL Ryder GRS 00:34 6 WIGGINS Bradley SKY 00:34 7 CARUSO Giampaolo KAT 00:36 8 HENAO Sergio SKY 00:37 9 SANTAMBROGIO Mauro VIN 00:39 10 EVANS Cadel BMC 00:42