Stage/Finish: Cassino › San Giovanni Rotondo
Distance: 238 kilometers (hilly)
Another big day out that finally saw a breakaway going to the line and a new race leader taking over. This was definitely predicted as a pre-race possibility because Stage 5 was most likely going to be too hard for any sprinters and the GC teams were unlikely to commit massive energy to keep things in check.
The roads were generally better. These were big momentum carrying type roads. That didn’t prevent a massive pileup from happening 30 kilometers into the stage as the breakaway riders were fighting to get away and the rest of the group was sneaking around in the group staying covered. I’m not sure what happened, but before I knew it, there was a wall of riders on the ground just in front of me and more piling up from behind. Thankfully my bike took the brunt of rider impact from behind. Durbo, Simon, and Esteban were all caught up. There was so much chaos and confusion that I actually had time to walk back to the stopped team car and grab a spare wheel as the mechanic tended to Simon and got him going.
Even though race leader Roglic crashed, up ahead, the race was still going full gas and it took a while for a temporary truce that helped us catch back on.
Once the break went away, there was a period when it looked like the stage may be in play, but no teams came forward to help Lotto, and they eventually let it roll out. I don’t blame them. It is a long way to Verona! We were content to sit back and not spend excessive energy while staying alert and switched on. There was a solid 15 km climb before the finish and the bunch was tensely waiting to see if any GC team would light it up to bring the gap down.
The Italian press will be happy with an Italian stage winner and an Italian in pink. It will be interesting to see how much effort is put into defending that pink jersey over the next two days as the stages are a similar long format that is likely too hard for pure sprinters and more suited to a breakaway.