Contador takes over lead in Giro d’Italia as Polanc wins stage 5

by Shane Stokes

Alberto Contador broke the Orica-GreenEdge monopoly of the pink jersey on stage 5 of the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday, being aggressive on the final climb and gaining enough time to become race leader.

The 152 kilometre stage to Abetone was the first summit finish of the race and created the much-anticipated fireworks. Young Slovenian rider Jan Polanc put in an impressive ride from an escape move to hold on to take the stage win, with breakaway companion Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling) just holding on for second.

Fabio Aru (Astana) beat Contador and Richie Porte (Sky) in the sprint for the four second time bonus for third, with Aru’s team-mate Mikel Landa doing strong work for his leader in the final kilometres and holding on for sixth.

The next riders were 22 seconds behind the Aru group; overnight race leader Simon Clarke (Orica GreenEdge) was further back, cracking under the pressure on the final climb and conceding four minutes nine seconds to Polanc.

Contador ends the day two seconds ahead of Aru and 20 up on Porte; Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff Saxo) is a further two seconds back in fourth place, while Dario Cataldo (Astana) is fifth.

Clarke’s team-mate Esteban Chaves was tipped by some as being next in line for pink. However the young rider was unable to stick with the big guns in the finale and missed out on the Maglia Rosa by 37 seconds.

Polanc was psyched to take the biggest win of his career. “The day I came to the Giro, I turned 23, so this is a wonderful birthday present,” he said. “It feels strange, and hard to believe. I don’t think I’ll sleep tonight.

“My legs were good today, and my goal was to build a big lead, and then worry about who was the strongest. I’m a good climber, but the climb isn’t steep and Chavanel is a good rider. When I was on my own they told me the chase behind was fast, but when I heard my gap I knew that I would win.”

Contador had initially indicated he would be fine with a quieter day, but his sensations on the last climb prompted him to give things a shot.

“My attack wasn’t planned,” he admitted. “I felt good, looked around, and went. Aru and Richie Porte are strong, but Urán and others were dropped and I’m happy with the situation after five days.

“I didn’t expect the Maglia Rosa, but to have it is always fantastic. It’s a nice present, and a real honour.”

How it played out:

The 152 kilometre stage ran from La Spezia to Abetone and contained two climbs. The first was the third category Foce Carpinelli (km 57), while the next was the tough 17 kilometre summit finish.

A spate of attacks were launched after the racing started. Nothing initially stuck, but after 16 kilometres five riders succeeded in getting a gap. These were Jan Polanc (Lampre Merida), Silvan Dillier (BMC Racing Team), Axel Domont (Ag2r La Mondiale), Serghei Tvetcov (Androni Sidermec) and Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling).

They built a lead of five minutes but with the top rider on GC Polanc being almost 20 minutes back, he was of no threat. The gap continued to grow and after 50 kilometres of racing the quintet were slightly over nine minutes clear.

They crested the first climb and continued to push on; behind, race leader Simon Clarke’s Orica GreenEdge team were setting the tempo. They lost ground in the feed zone, though, and the break increased its lead to 11 minutes.

This was trimmed back to eight minutes with 20 kilometres left, and then six minutes 23 seconds at the base of the final climb, 17 kilometres from the line.

Giro d'Italia 2015 stage - 5

Fireworks on the first summit finish of the Giro:

The bunch continued to chase and with 14 kilometres left the break was 5 minutes 12 seconds ahead. Chavanel attacked and was answered by Dillier, with Domont and Polanc also making the junction. Tvetcov was dropped.

Behind, Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo team massed at the front with 12.7 kilometres to go. This signalled that the GC contenders were moving into attack mode; right away Chavanel attacked once more and was again tracked by Dillier. The other two got across again and then Domont made his own surge 12 kilometres from the line.

Rather than carrying him to glory, that proved to be his final roll of the dice. He was caught and immediately dropped, with Dillier then seizing the chance to strike out alone.

Polanc chased and brought Chavanel back up to Dillier. The Lampre-Merida rider then pushed forward with 10.7 kilometres left, opening a gap over the other two and holding a four minute 10 second advantage on the bunch.

Tinkoff-Saxo’s chase was joined by the Astana team of Fabio Aru, who pulled alongside the Russian team.

Chavenel came around somewhat and jumped with 8.6 kilometres left, seeking to close the 20 second gap to Polanc, but struggled to do so.

Very soon afterwards Diego Rosa (Astana) attacked the favourites’ group; this was immediately marked by Ivan Basso (Tinkoff-Saxo), the double Giro winner. Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani CSF) then jumped and got clear.

Astana’s Mikel Landa made his own surge and got up to Pirazzi before the duo was caught.

With just over six kilometres left Polanc reached the steep ten percent section and dug in, trying to maintain a lead that had slipped to 3 minutes 50. Behind, Pirazzi went again, getting a gap just before the Astana team hit the front. They quickly hauled him back and continued to ramp up the pace.

Astana’s increase of tempo put race leader Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) out the back, ending his time in the pink jersey. His team-mate Esteban Chaves remained close to the front, knowing that he could be riding into the pink jersey if he could stay prominent.

Alberto Contador was feeling good at attacked hard. Fabio Aru chased to try to get across, with Richie Porte (Sky) slightly further back. Porte got up to Aru and edged past him, gradually clawing Contador back. He brought Aru up to the Spaniard just as they caught Domont.

Heading under the five kilometre to go banner, Porte put in a surge. Contador covered this right away, with Aru then attacking hard but being contained.

The surges brought Polanc’s lead down to two minutes 20 seconds; Mikel Landa was able to get across and he then set the tempo for Aru. Despite his driving, though, Polanc was putting in a great job of keeping his pace high and he went under the kite with one minute 35 seconds’ lead. The Uran group was a further minute back, with Movistar’s Giovanni Visconti leading the chase.

Cannondale-Garmin’s Ryder Hesjedal felt he could give more and attacked, trying to close the minute gap to the four chasers.

Giro d'Italia 2015 stage - 5

Polanc pushed onwards and came in to take a superb win, hitting the line with arms aloft. The big question was who would take the bonus behind; with Dillier caught at that point, four bonus seconds were up for grabs for third place.

Landa continued to drive towards the line, then Aru attacked. Contador tried to get past him but the curve of the road was not in his favour and he had to accept fourth, one place ahead of Porte.

Although he lost out on the time bonus, the rejigged general classification saw him end the day two seconds clear of Aru and 20 up on Porte.

“I love the Giro d’Italia, the people and the country, and to wear the Maglia Rosa tomorrow during the stage will be fantastic,” he said.

He made clear that he wouldn’t pressurise his team to defend it. “The one that counts is the Maglia Rosa in Milan, so if someone else takes it tomorrow, it won’t be a problem.”

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