Battaglin wins 5th stage as Dennis maintains Giro lead
SANTA NINFA, Sicily (AP) — Enrico Battaglin surged ahead at the perfect moment to win the fifth stage of the Giro d'Italia on Wednesday as Chris Froome and most of the other favorites finished in the main pack.
Rohan Dennis held onto the overall leader's pink jersey with a 1-second lead over defending champion Tom Dumoulin, with four-time Tour de France winner Froome 55 seconds back in 19th place.
Giovanni Visconti, a Sicilian looking to impress before his home fans, led coming around the final turn with 200 meters (yards) to go before Battaglin accelerated to take his third career Giro victory.
Battaglin, who rides for Team LottoNL-Jumbo, finished third in a slightly tougher stage on Tuesday.
"The finish was a bit different to yesterday. Yesterday was really a powerful sprint on a really steep climb," said Battaglin, who also won Giro stages in 2013 and 2014. "Today was a steep climb but at two kilometers to go, and I had a little bit of time to rest and recover and do a really good sprint."
Visconti crossed second and Jose Goncalves of Portugal finished second, both with the same time as Battaglin.
Battaglin clocked slightly more than four hours over the 153-kilometer (95-mile) leg from Agrigento to Santa Ninfa in southwestern Sicily.
The start of the stage was delayed for 15 minutes due to an accident on the racing route that left a motorcycle driver in serious condition.
Simon Yates, the Briton who won the young rider classification at last year's Tour de France, sits third overall — 17 seconds behind Dennis, who claimed the lead after the second stage.
"It was a nice day on the bike, on quite a slow pace because of the head wind," said Dennis, an Australian with BMC. "I felt a bit of stress every now and then but I am glad to be in the Maglia Rosa. We're only on day five, that means sixteen days to go. Tomorrow will be another story with the Etna. I'm looking forward to see how I'll go up there."
Stage 6 concludes with an arduous ascent up Mount Etna that should shake up the overall standings. Then the race heads over to mainland Italy and climbs up the peninsula to the defining legs in the Alps.
The only overall contender who struggled on Wednesday was Astana rider Miguel Angel Lopez, who misjudged a turn with six kilometers to go, rode straight off the road and fell into a patch of high grass. He finished 42 seconds behind.
Four riders — Ryan Mullen, Laurent Didier, Eugert Zhupa and Andrea Vendrame — were involved in an early breakaway. Vendrame, the last survivor of the breakaway, was caught by the main pack with three kilometers to go.
While the first half of the stage was not very challenging, the second half included three fourth-category climbs.
The final two kilometers were mostly uphill, including one demanding section at a gradient of 12 percent.
The stage began near Agrigento's Valley of the Temples archaeological site and concluded in the valley of Belice to commemorate the 50th anniversary of an earthquake that killed more than 200 people. Santa Ninfa was one of the hardest hit towns by the quake.
The Giro ends in Rome on May 27.