Aussie Focus

Caleb unleashes super sprint to win in Novara

Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) got off the mark for the 2021 Giro d'Italia in style in Novara, sprinting to the win with a late surge to come over the top of Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka-ASSOS) with Elia Viviani (Cofidis) third.

104th Giro d'Italia 2021 - Stage 5, Caleb Ewan

Caleb Ewan of Lotto Soudal celebrates winning Stage 5 of the Giro d'Italia Source: Getty

Ewan had jumped on the wheel of Viviani and the late push to the front of the Cofidis sprint train, but found himself slightly baulked as he fought with Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) for the Frenchman's slipstream. Merlier pulled his foot form his cleats and lost momentum at the crucial stage, allowing Ewan some room to accelerate. 

Nizzolo took off and passed Viviani, with Ewan closing in hot pursuit, just passing the Italian sprinter in the final metres to take his fourth Giro d'Italia stage victory. It was just the second win of the season from the normally prolific sprinter, and the weight of pressure told in the triumphant celebration, one Grand Tour ticked off in Ewan's stated quest at the start of the year of taking wins in all three Grand Tours.

"It was a relief," said Ewan. "My goal is to win in all three and 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. I think they outperformed themselves.

"Without them, I wouldn't have been so fresh at the finish and I got good lines through all the corners in the last 20 kilometres. I think I showed that I had the best legs in the final."

Ewan spoke to the tussle with Merlier in the sprint with the Alpecin-Fenix rider losing his connection with his cleats after coming together with the Sydneysider.

"I don't know what happened [with Merlier]," said Ewan. "I think there were some guys coming back through the bunch and there were a few twitchy moments. It didn't stop me too much and I was still able to get out, so I was lucky, I think."

The Australian sprinter has now taken 48 victories in UCI races in his career, and is aiming to build on that tally, not just at the Giro, but in the other Grand Tours, which should mean the Australian bows out of the Italian race ahead of the finish in Milan.

"The goal to start with was one win," said Ewan. "I've done that and I'm pretty hungry to win as much as I can. This is good confidence for the team and myself going forward and we'll give the next few sprint stages a good shot as well."

Fine weather and a pan-flat 177km between Modena and Cattolica were on the cards for Stage 5 of the Giro d'Italia. The day was designed entirely with the sprinters in mind and there was little impetus from the teams to provide the sacrificial lambs for the slaughter in the break to be tribute to a sprint finish win. Filippo Tagliani (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) and Umberto Marengo (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè) immediately attacked, but they found no allies from any of the other teams and looked doomed from the start. 

They built their lead up to five minutes before being reeled in by the main bunch just after the intermediate sprint point, still with 100 kilometres to go. 

After a 30-kilometre period of very little happening in terms of action, Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) and Davide Gabburo (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè) attacked, the same two Italian Pro Continental teams enlivening the race again. 

That injected more speed into proceedings before a bridging attack from Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-Citroen) made it three at the fron, but the extra pace wasn't all for the good as a number of crashes marred the run into the finish line.

Pavel Sivakov (INEOS Grenadiers) crashed with 15.8km to go, and while he finished the race, he has been confirmed as a non-starter for Stage 6 after breaking his collarbone in the fall. Tejay van Garderen (EF Education- Nippo) also fell but will continue the race at this stage.

An incident at 4.3km to go took out Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) and left the race without one of its potential winners. Many had been impressed by Landa's form on Stage 5, but the Spanish climber exited the Giro with a broken collarbone and broken ribs, a sorry state for the rider aiming for his first Grand Tour victory. 

The breakaway were caught with just over three kilometres remaining, leaving it all for the sprinter's trains to decide the outcome of the race.

BORA-hansgrohe continued their trend of doing most of the work early in the sprint, with Alpecin-Fenix and Cofidis coming to the fore more as the race approached the line. In the end, it was Ewan who unleashed his rapid sprint to secure a famous win.

Stage 6 offers opportunities for the climbers, a 160-kilometre that contains over 3,400 metres of climbing and finishes on the summit of Ascoli Piceno. Watch from 2025 AEST on SBS OnDemand, with SBS VICELAND's coverage starting from 2120. 

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5 min read
Published 13 May 2021 at 7:37am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS