It's already stage 5 and it's been a day of torrential rain, unexpected animals and
Today in review
Stage 4: A Chaos Sandwich
Never a dull moment at a Grand Tour, eh? Well, quite the reverse is often true, particularly it seems at the Giro d’Italia, when week 1 can quite often be a bit of a bore-fest of flat stages and uncontested breakaways. After yesterday’s carnage flew in the face of that particular theory, it was a fair expectation that things might be a little easier on stage 5, and for a couple of kilometres, it seemed it would be.
Two Italian conti riders, plus Thibaut Pinot on the hunt for KOM points, and Thomas Champion of Cofidis, set off unchallenged, on a day when the primary concern would be staying warm in frankly quite hideous weather conditions. The soundtrack was that of a cacophony of screaming brakes, and there was an unspoken sense that no-one would do anything crazy, with soaking wet roads to contend with.
In fact, the dangers of the slick road surface played their part almost immediately after the false sense of security had set in as breakaway member Gandin slipped out and crashed, leaving Thibaut Pinot to execute a deft maneouvre to avoid crashing himself. Luckily all were OK and the four proceeded to the first climb of the day, a short ascent that went uncontested, as Pinot claimed 9 points for himself before thanking his short-term pals and slipping back to the peloton.
Surely THEN things would settle down? Er, not really. In a cruel twist of fate, a dog ran onto the road causing Soudal QuickStep’s Davide Ballerini to crash, and somehow (the video evidence is lacking) Remco Evenepoel. The next shot was the World Champion sitting on the floor, dumbstruck, and the cycling world held its collective breath as we waited to see if he would get up. Here's the moment when it all kicked off:
It took a few moments but Evenepoel was able to remount and continue, albeit looking somewhat shellshocked. Yet again, proof that the most unexpected external factors can impact bike racing in myriad ways – it remains to be seen the impact of the crash on Remco moving forward
Everything went quiet for a long while after that, perhaps understandably. Everyone needed a strong drink and a lie down. Trek and Alpecin took control at the front of the bunch but kept a handle on the pace, which remained stately. The front trio Gandin, Zoccorato and Champion, who sound like a crack team of New York lawyers, remained around 3 minutes ahead, and the kilometres ticked down.
There was a flurry of excitement at the intermediate sprint for the points classification, Champion and Gandin contesting from the front (Gandin just taking the win there) and Mads Pedersen looking assured to take the win from the bunch, with current ciclamino leader Jonathan Milan labouring in his wake.
With 100km to go the fog descended, but it felt sort of appropriate as there wasn’t much to see, and this persisted for, well, the following Xkms. Plenty of time to get on with other jobs, housework, admin, and generally not miss anything. Back to the typical early Giro vibes.
We were on for a bunch sprint, and I zoned out a bit if I’m honest, as Zoccorato made his bid to be named most combative rider, his breakaway mates sliding back towards the peloton, and he opened out a decent gap for a while, over a minute in fact. As a result of the lack of pressure throughout the day, it would end in a bunch sprint rather than the slightly more selective sprint that many had expected.
With just under 7km to go, the peloton took on the final turn of the day, heading into a poker-straight finish, and after a completely snooze-inducing 140-odd kilometres drama struck, as a crash took out several riders, Ackermann and Gaviria included, taking them out of contention for the sprint, Roglič too distanced along with the maglia rosa of Andreas Leknessund. It was outside of the 3km zone but inside 3km, another major incident saw Evenepoel come down yet again, along with many others.
The sprint wound up with Jonathan Milan and Mark Cavendish primed and ready, but it was Kaden Groves who powered through for the win, as Cavendish crashed over the line, yet more carnage in a day that began and ended in complete madness.
It's currently 18.44 CET as I wait to complete this bulletin and we're still waiting on the fall-out from the chaos, in terms of the impact on GC times - go ahead and read all the other delights we have in store for you, and hopefully we'll find out more before the end of the day.
Speedy stage preview
Stage 6 – Thursday 11th May – Napoli – Napoli – 162km (Flat)
For the second year in a row, a stage of the Giro takes place around the city of Napoli. Last year’s stage was a criterium style circuit race around the city, won by Thomas de Gendt. Like stage 5, this one will likely turn out to be another break v sprint battle. With two categorised climbs, the trickier one coming first, the category 2 Valico di Chiunzi, it’s bound to be a day where the bunch splits, but with all the climbing done and dusted over 60kms before the finish, there’s plenty of time for everything to come back together.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Unless there’s a very determined and high-powered break, this one will go to a sprint to the finish in Napoli.
HOT TIP: Come on, it HAS to be time for Mads Pedersen, surely? Given I've predicted him to win several times without luck, maybe it's my fault, so I'll have a punt on the breakaway instead, and go for ALBERTO BETTIOL to win stage 6.
Lena's Giro Antipasti
I already mentioned the kingdom of Naples yesterday and since the Giro decided to bless us with a circuit around Naples let’s talk about it some more.
The name 'kingdom of Naples' is a bit tricky in itself. Because the aforementioned Kings of Naples also claimed the title King of Sicily.
If you think it's weird, it’s just one of the fun historical bitch fights over who has more clout because they’re related/influenced/descended from someone and pay homage to that illustrious personage. A bit like Eminem and Dr Dre.
Before the kingdom of Naples became a thing it was part of the kingdom of Sicily which included territories up to L’Aquila which is in the Abruzzo region.
The first 'Kings of Sicily' descended from some Norman mercenaries who decided to overthrow their paymasters to shorten that part of history somewhat.
Those Normans didn’t originally come from Italy but rather from what today is France. The Normandy region still bears their name. French and German nobility had lots of interest in the kingdom of Sicily.
Because of a few marriages and deaths the House of Anjou claimed overlordship due to marriage; some others, partially related - sometimes even out of wedlock - disagreed. Some people were overthrown and some battles fought and in the end the kingdom was divided and the 'kingdom of Naples' was born.
House Anjou ruled for some centuries, followed by houses Aragon, Habsburg and Bourbon.
The territories remained stable and formed what is today known as the 'Mezzogiorno' or Southern Italy. Also the very reason why the region of Abruzzo is part of the Mezzogiorno despite being in the middle of Italy and rather northern.
The first territorial transformation happened because of Napoleon who installed his own brother as King of Naples and gifted him a few more Italian territories as icing on the cake.
Two year later Napoleon’s sister and brother-in-law took over; they already ruled over Sicily and the title 'King over two Sicilies' was born.
As we all know, Napoleon was not long for the world and his brother-in-law met a similar fate in 1816. The former King of Naples, Ferdinand IV, was restored to his old throne and gifted a second one besides that.
He was renamed Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies. However that kingdom wasn’t born to grow as old as its predecessors.
Napoleon had destroyed a lot of the established Italian feudalistic structures and established a short-lived Italian republic in northern Italy. Alongside the ideals of the French Revolution the whispers of an Italian unification grew stronger and stronger.
Canzone dell'Amore Infinito
11: Stage 5: The Primitives - Crash The ‘95 Mix (Dumb & Dumber OST)
If anyone hoped I’d choose Baha Men’s ‘Who let the dogs out’ as today’s song - join the 5 other people who already suggested this (after ‘Singing in the Rain’ had been suggested too).
And until 7.6 km before the line I could have been convinced to actually just cater to public requests and give the worst dog-owner in Italy a shoutout. But then…
Yeah. And again. And AGAIN! AND AGAIN WTF?!?
As Tracy Tracy sings on what became the only logical choice for today:
Here you go, way too fast
Don't slow down, you're gonna crash
You should watch, watch your step
Don't look out, gonna break your neck
(Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na, Slow down, you're gonna crash)
This chorus is from ALL of us to the entire peloton! Please!
And I haven’t even talked about how Pinot avoided that slide out on the wet descent at the start - and how it shows that being cautious clearly has its merits at times…
My only wish for tomorrow is honestly that everybody stays on their bikes!
12: Stage 5: Baustelle - Violenza
Violenza. It’s italian, it’s synth, it’s the only word that feels applicable to today’s stage. Violence.
12: Stage 5: Dr. Dre & Eminem - Forgot About Dre
By special request
As explained above, the political intricacies of the leadership in the region we currently visit can somewhat be understood through the lineage lens of creative mentor/mentee constellations like Dr. Dre and Eminem. So here’s a classic testament to that dynamic as requested by Lena in preparation for tomorrow’s stage!
It was added by mistake yesterday for a wee bit before we caught the mistake, making it the song choice equivalent of the whole Brandon-Tao-Azzurra debacle from the weekend, so that feels very on-brand for the race.
The Watch Zone
The riders of our hearts.
Young rider watch: our littlest pelotonian, Matthew Riccitello, finished 51st today, 1.11 down on the winner. Hopefully he's safe and sound though after today it's hard to be certain. He retains 7th position in the young rider competition.
EF watch: it was a quieter day for the riders of EF today after a busy one yesterday, here's how they all fared in the final shakedown:
It's indicative of what a bizarre final few kilometres it was that the time gaps are literally upside down as compared with the finishing positions, as times were calculated between the various crashes, some occurring outside the 3km zone, others inside it.
GC-wise it's not brilliant, with Hugh Carthy currently the highest placed rider from the team, in 20th, 2.46 behind current leader Leknessund. Stage raid, incoming! Starting tomorrow. I can feel it in my bones.
The Fallen: and finally, a new segment to commemorate the riders leaving the race. Three riders did not start today’s stage: Ramon Sinkeldam (stomach issues); Valerio Conti (fractured pelvis following a crash on stage 4); and Remi Rojas (illness). Until next time, warriors! Riders remaining: 172
The Fall-out: and in another new section, especially for stage 5, I'm here to bring news at 19.25 CET that the official results have finally dropped. There are, amazingly, NO DNFs, though I suspect some of the expected DNFs may not start tomorrow. Alberto Dainese was relegated for deviation. And many riders were awarded the same time for the early crash.
Also in a major miscarriage of justice the already questionable decision to hold Twitter votes for most combative rider was thrown into further disarray when Samuele Zoccorato wasn't even included among the four options - strange.
What a day. It's stages like this that make you question your sanity, and that of everyone involved in the sport, to be honest.
On the other hand though, it's the perfect day for some light relief, and who better to provide it than the race's nearly-man, Mads Pedersen, making life very difficult for his team manager and Hannah Walker, trying to conduct an interview.
Art comes in many forms - today, it came in the form of the photo finish none of us were expecting, and the literal definition of a bike throw from Mark Cavendish.
And finally, Andreas Leknessund who, once again, is all of us.
I'll just sign off with what, to be fair, I could have used instead of a lengthy stage recap at the top of the bulletin. Let's hope tomorrow is quieter, in a good way, and more exciting, but not in a bad way. Ciao!