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Ewan wins sprint finish, Nizzolo is runner-up again
Pre-race favourite Landa crashes out in frenetic finale
Ineos Grenadiers dealt blow as Sivakov crashes hard
Caleb Ewan was back to his brilliant best on Wednesday when the Lotto-Soudal sprinter won stage five at the Giro d'Italia just minutes after general classification hopeful Mikel Landa had crashed out.
Having missed out on stage two – won by Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) – Ewan who is aiming to become part of a select group of riders to win stages in all three grand tours in the same year, proved once again why he is one of the best sprinters in cycling right now.
Having spent all day tucked in behind his team-mates, who broadly speaking controlled much of the 177-kilometre panflat stage from Modena to Cattolica, the tiny Australian remained calm throughout a chaotic finale in which there were several crashes on the tight, technical run-in to the line near the Adriatic coast.
Much like the approach to the line, the bunch sprint involving around a dozen teams was frenetic. After being briefly delayed by a wobbling Merlier, Ewan regained his composure before jumping onto the wheel of Elia Viviani (Cofidis) around 125 metres from the line then launching himself beyond European champion Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka-Assos) just shy of the line to secure victory.
"It was a relief," he said. "My goal is to win in all three [grand tours] and the first sprint stage didn't go good at all, so there was a lot of pressure on me and the team to do a good job. I think they outperformed themselves. Without them I wouldn't have been so fresh at the finish and I got good lines through all the corners in the last 20 kilometres. I think I showed that I had the best legs in the final.
"I don't know what happened [with Merlier]. I think there were some guys coming back through the bunch and there were a few twitchy moments. It didn't stop me too much and I was still able to get out, so I was lucky, I think. The goal to start with was one win. I've done that and I'm pretty hungry to win as much as I can. This is good confidence for the team and myself going forward and we'll give the next few sprint stages a good shot as well."
Ewan's stage win – the fourth of his career – was only part of the story though on a day of high drama at the Giro d'Italia.
Following a relatively incident-free day, Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) was the first to go down heavily after the Russian appeared to touch wheels with a team-mate before clipping the branch of a roadside tree. Although he completed the stage, over 13 minutes down, his team's sporting director Matteo Tosatto suggested he may have broken his collarbone and was unlikely to continue.
Landa's fate was sealed once the race had entered the final five kilometres of a circuitous and very technical run in to the line. The Basque, who had looked in great form during Tuesday's tough stage, crashed after a rider collided with a race marshal who was stood in the centre of the road to warn riders about dangerous road furniture.
Involved in the same crash, which left the marshal lying on the road, was Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates) and François Bidard (Ag2r-Citroën). Landa was unable to continue and was taken away by ambulance while Bahrain Victorious later confirmed the severity of his injuries in a team statement.
"In the final kilometres of the race, Mikel Landa was taken down in a crash involving three other riders after a collision at a traffic island," the team statement said. "Landa has been taken to Riccione Hospital, where he is receiving treatment for a broken collarbone and multiple ribs on his left side. Landa remained conscious throughout and is in good spirits to get back on the bike as soon as possible."
Tuesday's stage winner Dombrowski and the leader in the mountains classification completed the stage and is expected to continue on Thursday, while Bidard's team later confirmed the Frenchman had fractured his left clavicle and had abandoned the race.
Despite finishing safely to retain the maglia rosa, Alessandro De Marchi (Israel Start-up Nation) described the finale 'a crazy circus'.
"The road was really difficult and technical, even too dangerous in my opinion so in the last 70km there was really a lot of stress and I hope the guys that crashed are fine," the Italian said.
Landa crashes out of the Giro; Sivakov ships time
It has been confirmed that Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) was taken away by ambulance. That's his challenge to win a first grand tour over. In a short statement, Bahrain Victorious confirmed their team doctor has gone to hospital with Landa, but they are unable to provide a diagnosis until after he had received a medical check.
Pavel Sivakov, meanwhile, crossed the line battered and bruised though the Ineos Grenadiers rider lost over 13 minutes and is a doubt to start tomorrow's mountainous stage. Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates) was able to complete the stage, crossing the line over eight minutes down on Caleb Ewan to keep hold of his mountains jersey.
What a thoroughly brutal ending to a relatively benign looking stage. It is a cruel sport cycling. One lapse of concentration, or the slightest moment of misfortune, and your race, season, or in the worst case scenario, career, can be gone. Just like that. One really has to feel incredibly sorry for Landa here this afternoon, he looked to be in great form in Tuesday's stage and was obviously brimming with confidence. If there were no bad luck, he would get no luck at all.
No sign of Landa
Mikel Landa has not crossed the line and four of his team-mates were just spotted riding slowly towards the finish. No news on whether the Bahrain Victorious team leader – and one of the favourites to win this year's race – has abandoned.
Ewan wins stage five at the Giro
The tiny Australian repaid his team-mates in kind to take his first win at this year's Giro. The Lotto-Soudal rider came from some way behind and was briefly delayed by a wobbling Tim Merlier, but kept his composure before overhauling Giacomo Nizzolo just shy of the finishing line to secure victory. Elia Viviani took third.
1km to go
Final right-hander has been navigated. Dead straight finish incoming...
1.5km to go
Bora-Hansgrohe and Peter Sagan are near the front, as is Elia Viviani, Tim Merlier, Fernando Gaviria, Giacomo Nizzolo and Davide Cimolai.
2km to go
Back at the front of the race, the breakaway has been caught and it is Lotto-Soudal on the front.
Landa looks to be in trouble
Oh that is heartbreaking. The Basque who looked in fine form yesterday, has crashed heavily and is losing an awful lot of time. He is receiving treatment but it does not look good for the popular rider.
4km to go – Landa involved in crash
Another crash, including Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) and yesterday's stage winner and birthday boy Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates).
5km to go
And here's what it looks like: The final five kilometres are raced on city roads which as anybody who has spent any time in Italy will know, can often be made up of a mixture of rough asphalt and large paving slabs – that become slippery when wet. There are a two roundabouts and four bends – three left-handers and one right-hander – before they hit the home straight which at 900 metres on asphalt is relatively long.
6km to go
The road is narrowing soon and the sprinters will need to be on alert on this tight, technical finale.
7km to go
Jumbo-Visma, riding for Dylan Groenewegen, have moved up towards the front of the speeding bunch. The trio of stage leaders are holding on to their 15sec advantage, but that will be vanishing soon.
8km to go
A little like Sivakov, my computer crashed at the worst possible time. Another crash in the peloton, but none of the sprinters were involved.
12km to go
Back at the pointy end of the race, the peloton is tapping along at a decent lick, but are not riding at full gas just yet. The trio of stage leaders are holding on to a 10sec advantage.
13.5km to go
Sivakov is not really chasing back on and will be losing time on his general classification rivals. Bad news for the Russian and his team. Looks like he may have landed on his race radio in that high-speed fall.
Crash! Sivakov goes down
Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers), who arrived in Italy as co-leader with Egan Bernal, has crashed heavily. Looks like he clipped a branch of a tree somehow. He's back on the bike, but has a few cuts and looks to be in pain.
16km to go
Half the peloton goes to the left, the other half opts to navigate the roundabout on the right.
17km to go
The peloton is looming. The trio's lead is down to just 5sec as they skirt along the Adriatic coastal road. Lotto-Soudal are drilling the pace on the front of the peloton.
18km to go
The peloton is filling the entire width of the road as teams and riders jockey for position ahead of the frenetic finale to what has, thus far, been a relatively quiet stage. The leading trio are being hung out to dry, their advantage holding at 15sec.
20km to go
Alexis Gougeard has bridged over to Davide Gabburo and Simon Pellaud, but the trio's lead is just 15sec now.
23km to go
A very tight left-hander forces a number of rider to squeeze their brakes, causing a concertinaing effect in the bunch. Tejay van Garderen (EF Education-Nippo) hits the deck, but he looks ok and is back in the saddle. Hopefully that rain holds off.
24km to go
Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r-Citroën) attacks off the front of the peloton, but there is no response.
25km to go
Like a large multi-coloured jelly fish, the peloton ebbs along widening and narrowing with each change in direction. The breakaway's lead drops, slightly, to just 28sec.
28km to go
The two-man breakaway's lead is down to 38sec and the dark clouds above Cattolica look ominous. Hopefully for the riders they will not be opening up and spilling their contents on the road before the speeding bunch arrives in town.
35km to go
Thomas De Gendt is sat in his usual position in stages like this, dead centre and on the front of the bunch, as the popular Belgian monitors the gap on the breakaway. Team-mate Caleb Ewan, meanwhile, is working his way up the peloton with the assistance of Jasper De Buyst. Is this Ewan's day, or will man-of-the-moment Tim Merlier add a second stage at this year's Giro d'Italia to his palmarès? Can Giacomo Nizzolo break his duck, will another Italian Elia Viviani be raising his arms in celebration, or is this Fernando Gaviria's day? The Dutch fans will be screaming for Dylan Groenewegen, the Slovakians praying that Peter Sagan can win again. But it is going to be a technical finale, so this could be anybody's stage.
40km to go
Davide Gabburo takes the three-second time bonus – along with a cash prize of €500 – ahead of Simon Pellaud, but none of the general classification contenders bothered racing for the line. It was Gabburo's team-mate Filippo Fiorelli who grabbed the final second by beating yet another Bardiani-CSF-Faizane rider, Giovanni Visconti, in a sprint. Perhaps their squad are having their own inter-team competition?
45km to go
The advantage held by the stage leaders has halved to just 45sec. The pair are not too far from the second intermediate sprint now. Assuming they take first and second spot, then there will be a one-second bonus on offer to the first rider from the peloton. Is anybody going to do a Geraint Thomas? As I'm sure you will recall, at the 2018 Tour de France the Thomas made a habit in the opening few stages of clipping off the front to take a bonus second here and there. The rest, of course, is history and he went on to become the first Welshman to take home the famous yellow jersey.
50km to go
Alpecin-Fenix have been riding on the front of the peloton, presumably on behalf of their main sprinter Tim Merlier, while Lotto-Soudal are surrounding their poker-faced Aussie Caleb Ewan. A number of the general classification squads are vying for position near the head of the bunch, but it is the sprint teams that are setting the pace.
60km to go
The two-man breakaway of Davide Gabburo and Simon Pellaud has gained 1min 20sec on the peloton, but nobody is expecting another surprise win here today – oxymoron of the day – following the last two stages when Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux),
Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates) took the wins.
68.5km to go: Attack!
Davide Gabburo (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane) and Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) have had enough of riding in the peloton and the pair have clipped off the front in a late break.
75km to go
All quiet out on this long straight road to Cattolica where today's stage will conclude, most likely, in a bunch gallop. Was just looking at the run-in to the finishing line. There are a few dark clouds overhead – where else? – and so the threat of showers may come to bear which will be bad news for those contesting the sprint.
The final few kilometres (see above) are raced on city roads which as anybody who has spent any time in Italy will know, can often be made up of a mixture of rough asphalt and large paving slabs – that become slippery when wet. There are a two roundabouts and four bends – three left-handers and one right-hander – before they hit the home straight which at 900 metres on asphalt is relatively long.
90km to go
The entire width of a fairly wide two-lane road is filled and the teams fan out, a number of the general classification riders are up near the front not wanting to get caught out should the wind start causing any damage. This is turning into a very peculiar stage. Other than the obvious stage win up for grabs, there is also another intermediate sprint in today's stage, in the town of Savignano sul Rubicone in around 45km, but rather than points up for grabs there will be time bonuses on offer – 3sec, 2sec and 1sec for the first three riders.
100km to go
Amid the confusion of the breakaway being caught, I almost forgot to mention that Filippo Tagliani beat Umberto Marengo in the the intermediate sprint, while Fernando Gaviria won the bunch sprint ahead of Elia Viviani, Tim Merlier, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Giacomo Nizzolo and Andrea Pasqualon (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux). Interesting to note that Caleb Ewan didn't contest for the points. The Australian is widely expected to be planning to quit the race in the second week before turning his attention towards the Tour de France, that small saving of energy may also help him later in the day handing him a slight advantage.
106km to go
Quite remarkably, Umberto Marengo and Filippo Tagliani have been caught by the peloton. Ineos Grenadiers have moved to the front of the bunch. Are teams sensing that crosswinds are imminent? As mentioned, it's a ridiculously flat profile today and so if they do start blowing especially hard then they can cause irreparable damage to a riders' general classification ambitions. That said, with the road being fairly straight the opportunities to cause any splits are limited.
108km to go
Umberto Marengo and Filippo Tagliani's advantage has plummeted to below one minute after a number of the sprinters' teams moved to the front of the peloton. There's an intermediate sprint incoming and so some of those in the bunch will be keen on challenging for points in the race for the maglia ciclamino, but once through this key point in the stage I'm almost certain the peloton will knock off the pace.
Bernal all smiles after decent day in the rain
120km to go
The breakaway's advantage has increased slightly to 5min 22sec, but nobody in the peloton appears too concerned about the just yet. It's all smiles and chin-wagging back in the bunch as riders catch up with their colleagues from rival teams – there were very few opportunities from smalltalk during Tuesday's brutal stage. Even those that are hoping to go head-to-head with each other for the stage win later on today are having a chat – Giacomo Nizzolo of Italy and Belgium's latest sprint star Tim Merlier were just spotted riding shoulder-to-shoulder looking relaxed shooting the breeze.
Local lad Lorenzo Fortunato just rolled off the front of the bunch as he passed through his local neighbourhood in Bologna.
The second-year professional who rides for Eolo-Kometa had his fan club lining the road ready to welcome him. Nice touch.
As it stands . . .
Afternoon all. It will surprise few to learn that a two-man breakaway is leading the stage after Umberto Marengo (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane) and Filippo Tagliani (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) attacked from the flag. There was very little resistance from the peloton which appeared happy enough to allow them their day in the sun.
Following yesterday's rotten weather, it is perfect riding conditions this afternoon – it was 21°C at the start in Modena and is forecast to drop slightly to 19°C at the finish in Cattolica. There may be one fly in the ointment, however, as there is talk of some showers near the finish which may impact on what we are expecting to be a frenetic finale.
The Italian pairing of Marengo and Tagliani lead the peloton by 4min 40sec having completed 43km, meaning they are still 134km from the end of the stage. Race leader Alessandro De Marchi has his Israel Start-up Nation team-mates sat on the front of the peloton giving the Italian the opportunity to show off his first ever maglia rosa.
Hello and welcome to our live rolling blog from stage four at the Giro d'Italia, the 177-kilometre run from Modena to Cattolica.
Following yesterday's brutal stage in the Apennines that saw yet another surprise winner when breakaway rider Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates) landed his first victory on European soil, today's panflat course should offer the riders some welcome respite. A day of riding in the rain across a series of tough climbs will affect some riders more than others, but with the forecast looking fairly bleak as it often can be in May the coping with the conditions can be as key to winning the Giro d'Italia as arriving in Italy in top form.
One rider that copes well in the bad conditions and has regained some of his top form following a turbulent couple of years is Alessandro De Marchi (Israel Start-up Nation) who today will wear the maglia rosa, the leader's pink jersey, for the first time in his long career. Let's have a glance at the main classification podiums . . .
Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) retained the maglia ciclamino, the cyclamen jersey, as leader in the points classification after the big breakaway scooped up the majority of the points yesterday meaning there was no change in the top five of that particular competition.
Having scooped up 18 points atop Colle Passerino en route to winning yesterday's stage, Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates) became the leader in the mountains classification and so will celebrate his 30th birthday today wearing the maglia azzurra, the blue jersey. Providing the American completes the stage, then he will hold that overnight as there are no categorised climbs today. The birthday boy will be getting a trip to the podium. Ain't that just swell!
Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ) became the outright leader in the youth classification after finishing seventh on Tuesday. Although I cannot 100 per cent confirm this, I think he may be the first Hungarian to wear a leader's jersey at a grand tour – the 22-year-old from Csomor will be dressed in the maglia bianca, the white jersey.
And so, what's on the menu today? After setting off from Modena at a slightly later time than usual – 12.20pm (BST) – the peloton heads down the ancient Roman Via Aemilia, almost straight as an arrow, towards the intriguingly named town of Cattolica.
Whether or not the stage was dreamt up while dining on a plate of borlenghi – a type of flatbread from Modena – is unknown, but its profile certainly looks as panflat. Despite riding past Imola where there are plenty of short testing climbs, today's stage features just over 600 metres of elevation and not a single categorised climb.
If you have read this far, then you will have probably worked out what type of rider the stage suits: a sprinter. But which one?
With a sample size of just one it is difficult to really say any one fastman is head and shoulders above another at this year's Giro d'Italia, however having won on Sunday confidence must be coursing through the veins of Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix). The Belgian did, though, appear to struggle in in the medium mountains so it will be interesting to see how he has recovered.
It was interesting to note that Lotto-Soudal did not have a single rider in yesterday's 25-man breakaway – including Thomas De Gendt, their specialist and good friend of Alessandro De Marchi – which immediately got me thinking that the team management have earmarked today's stage for their little pocket rocket Caleb Ewan. Ewan has a tendency to start his grand tours slowly, often taking a few stages to get his legs really firing and so I really believe today could be his day. The Australian and his lead-out man Roger Kluge finished yesterday's stage 180th and 179th, while De Gendt was 177th out of 183. If there is a headwind at the finish in the coastal town of Cattolica – which Ewan and his team will be praying for – then that would make him my favourite. If not, then it will be a close call.
Fernando Gaviria (UAE Emirates) has shown some surprisingly good form good form thus far and has been there or thereabouts, while the same could be said of Elia Viviani (Cofidis). Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) looked a little nervous to me in the sprint finish on Sunday, though I may be over-analysing things.
European and Italian road champion Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka-Assos) has more runners-up spots at the Giro d'Italia than any other rider in its 104 editions, so the 32-year-old will be desperate to consign that statistic to the green litter zone, but will today be his day? Anyway, that's enough speculation from me for the moment.
Back at 1.30pm (BST) when today's live coverage will begin in earnest. Ciao, for now.