Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) sped to victory at the end of stage five of the Giro d'Italia on Wednesday, timing his finishing run to perfection. The Australian has set a target of taking a stage win in each of cycling's three Grand Tours this year and took the first step towards that goal when he thundered past European champion Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka Assos) and Elia Viviani (Cofidis) just before the line in Cattolica.
Ewan went close to crashing when stage two winner Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) experienced mechanical problems and suddenly lost all speed. The two rubbed shoulders, putting Ewan close to the barriers, but he stayed upright and was then able to overtake several riders before the line.
“It was a relief. My goal this year is to win in all three,” he said, referring to the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. “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 today. I think they out-performed themselves, they were so good today. Without them I couldn’t have been so fresh…I think I showed I had the best legs in the final.
“The goal to start with was one [WIN], so I have done that. I am pretty hungry to win as much as I can, this is good confidence for the team and myself going forward. I think we will give the next few sprint stages a good shot as well.”
Irish duo Dan Martin (Israel Start Up Nation) and Nicolas Roche (Team DSM) both finished in the main bunch, placing 33rd and 69th. They are 19th and 58th overall heading towards Thursday's mountainous leg to Ascoli Piceno.
The finale of the flat stage proved to be a dangerous one, with crashes taking down several riders. Those hurt included one of the big race favourites, Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious), as well as Ineos Grenadiers' Pavel Sivakov and Tuesday's stage winner Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates). The latter is leading the King of the Mountains classification and fell on what was his 30th birthday. Landa was unable to continue in the race, while the other two limped in well behind, each losing over eight minutes.
The other big-name riders all steered clear of trouble, conserving energy all day and leaving the stage-winning efforts to breakaways Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Davide Gabburo (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè) and Alexis Gougeard (AG2R Citroën). Those three were finally recaptured close to the line and while Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team tried to set the former triple world champion up for victory, it was Ewan and Lotto Soudal who played things perfectly.