MESSINA, Sicily (AP)French cyclist Arnaud Demare won a bunch sprint at the end of the fifth stage of the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday and Juan Pedro Lopez kept hold of the leader’s pink jersey.
Demare, who rides for Groupama-FDJ, edged Fernando Gaviria at the end of the 174-kilometer (108-mile) route from Catania to Messina after sprint favorites Mark Cavendish and Caleb Ewan had been dropped earlier in the day. Giacomo Nizzolo was third.
Demare also struggled on the climb but his team managed to eventually get him back to the peloton.
It was a sixth stage win in the Giro for the 30-year-old Demare but his first win of the year after a difficult start to 2022.
”My victory today means that in cycling we must never give up,” Demare said. ”The sprint has been fluid from my point of view, even though it might have appeared chaotic. I’ve been patient before I launched the sprint.
”I lost a fair bit of time up the hill but my teammates have done a great job to bring me back quickly in the downhill. Then we worked hard to maintain Cavendish and Ewan behind.”
Most of the overall contenders crossed the line together. Lopez maintained his 39-second advantage over Lennard Kamna after moving into the overall lead on Tuesday. Rein Taaramae was third, 58 seconds behind Lopez.
”I don’t believe the moment, it’s the first day of my life with the maglia rosa,” Lopez said. ”A lot of riders say to me, `Congratulations, enjoy, enjoy the day, enjoy the moment,’ and for sure I enjoy the moment because it’s one of the best days of my life.”
Meanwhile, one of the outside favorites, two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali, announced he will retire from the sport at the end of the year. An emotional Nibali, who is one of only seven riders in history to have won all three grand tours, made the announcement after arriving in his hometown.
The 37-year-old Nibali is nicknamed ”The Shark of Messina.”
Five riders escaped early in the day but they were caught after 100 kilometers (62 miles). The main drama happened on the only climb of the day, a second-category ascent up to Portella Mandrazi.
With Cavendish and Ewan dropped, the peloton upped the pace and they were unable to catch up.
Cavendish’s Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team put in a solid effort but the high speed of the peloton eventually forced them to give up hope of closing the gap.
Cavendish and Ewan crossed the line almost 12 minutes behind the sprint.
The day finished earlier than most to allow the teams to take the ferry to the Italian mainland for Thursday’s sixth stage from Palmi to Scalea, along a mainly flat 192-kilometer (119-mile) route with a fourth-category climb early in the stage.
The Giro finishes on May 29 in Verona.
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