How the Breakaway Robbed the Sprinters on Stage 5 of the Giro d’Italia

A daring breakaway steals the show in stage 5, leaving sprinters scrambling and Alpecin-Deceunick facing scrutiny after aggressive tactics falter. 


Maybe it was all that focaccia the riders loaded up on before yesterday’s stage, or maybe everyone just has something to prove in this race, but the theme of the day was full-speed ahead in Stage 5 of the Giro d’Italia.

At the end of the 178-kilometre stage, Benjamin Thomas of Cofidis took the team’s first win this season. Following behind were Michael Valgren (EF Education-EasyPost), Andrea Pietrobon (Polti Kometa), and Enzo Paleni (Groupama-FDJ)—a breakaway group that spent half the race with a lead of around one minute over the peloton.

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Even though sprinter teams like Alpecin-Deceuninck had exerted considerable effort in the day’s initial stages, they held off on collaborating with Lidl-Trek until the final kilometres of the race. The same behaviour was seen in Soudal Quick-Step, who hoped to deliver Kaden Groves and Tim Merlier to a sprint finish.

With 5 km to the finish, the breakaway had a forty-second lead, and the peloton couldn’t get their act together. INEOS Grenadiers had the most notable attack, but pulled off after the 3-kilometre mark, working to protect their lead man, Geraint Thomas.

From there, the breakaway was allowed to duke it out themselves for the win. Behind, the bunch sprint for fifth place was won by Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek).

In a post-race interview, race leader Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) commented on the tension toward the end of the race. “Today was quite an interesting day. The last hour or so was really, really fast. It was incredible. The speed we kept for the last 50 km was just so high. Coming into Lucca was really intense and crazy. The breakaway stayed in front and the sprinters were chasing them but unfortunately for them they didn’t catch them, but stayed full-gas.”

When pressed on whether he was surprised that the breakaway group stayed ahead, Pogačar said, “Yeah. It was a late breakaway, so… it was not the best tactics today from Alpecin to go so hard on the climb, and then they couldn’t bring the breakaway back.”

Pogačar’s words were a little more polite than some of the other reactions. “‘Chapeau Alpecin, eh,’ was the sarcastic barb from Lidl-Trek’s Edward Theuns, who clapped his hands together for added emphasis.

‘I want to kick that car,’ said Soudal Quick-Step director Iljo Keisse as an Alpecin-Deceuninck vehicle drove past.”

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On a day that was expected to go to the sprinters, victory went instead to a four-man breakaway, which formed 77 km from the finish. And Alpecin-Deceuninck was widely considered to blame.

Alpecin-Deceuninck attacked on both of the day’s climbs, in what seemed to be a strategy to drop rival sprinters. But it also meant that they blew up later in the day, which left everyone else scrambling.

According to GCN, “If it was not for them, it would be a clear sprint day,” said Lidl-Trek’s Edward Theuns, repeatedly using the word “special” to describe Alpecin-Deceuninck’s tactics.

“They maybe misestimated their effort. Good for them to try, but this is the Giro d’Italia; everybody trained well; it’s not so easy to drop some guys from the wheel—not with 80 km to the finish.”

Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) was also visibly upset, and although he blamed his own team a bit, he had other explanations. “I don’t know, the break was just incredibly fast, and I’m guessing a bit of help from the motos. But these stages happen every now and then,” Groves told Eurosport. “It was a super strong breakaway, and probably the tailwind had a lot to do with it as well.”

But other teams are not buying the moto/tailwind explanation. They saw Alpecin-Deceuninck make a ridiculous move early, which resulted in the team not being able to pull later in the stage. “We had a plan, and we executed the early part really well,” Groves said. “Unfortunately, we got a little bit lost in the final, but the breakaway took the win anyway, so I’m happy to stay upright in those finishes anyway.”

Don’t be surprised to see a little less camaraderie around Alpecin-Deceuninck as we head into the rest of the week. Today’s events don’t seem like they’ll be easy to shake off for some.

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