Mikel Landa, Pavel Sivakov pay price for 'crazy circus' of a route at Giro d'Italia on Stage 5
The 104th edition of the Giro d’Italia will be all the weaker for the loss of Mikel Landa and Pavel Sivakov, victims of two separate and equally nasty falls in a hectic finale to Stage 5 which race leader Alessandro De Marchi later described as a “crazy circus”. Felix Lowe on a stage that will be remembered for a complicated run into Cattolica.
‘Why take it into town?’ – Smith hits out at route after Stage 5 crashes
How typical that on a day when nothing had happened in a Giro that Mikel Landa had looked to be in the form of his life, the Spanish climber should crash out of the race in the closing moments following a collision between the previous day’s stage winner and a marshal signalling road furniture on the sketchy run into Cattolica.
How much bad luck does one rider have to have for that bizarre string of events to add up and conspire to turn his race – perhaps his season or even his career – upside down.
Entering Wednesday’s pan-flat 177km stage through Emilia-Romagna, all the talk was of Landa’s form and prospects of winning this Giro following his impressive showing on the final climb to Sestola in Stage 4. Could this year be the one where Landa finally sheds the nearly-man tag, avoids all leadership conundrums, and finally delivers on the promise he showed at Astana – before those frustrating days at Sky and Movistar – when making the podium in the Giro back in 2015?
Highlights: Landa crashes out as Ewan wins Stage 5
This all came crashing down to earth when Landa, following the wheel of Tuesday’s winner Joe Dombrowski, went down hard after the American clipped the signalman inside the final few kilometres. Some 30th birthday present for yesterday’s hero, the man in the torn king of the mountains blue jersey reduced to soft-pedalling over the line some eight minutes in arrears.
By the time Dombrowski completed the stage, four of Landa’s Bahrain-Victorious domestiques had already trundled home without the man they had stayed back to nurse to the line. For Landa was in an ambulance on his way to hospital with a suspected fractured collarbone or wrist.
Teammate: Landa’s crash ‘didn’t look good’
Dombrowski was not the last to complete the stage: five minutes later, Ecuador’s Jhonatan Narvaez delivered his Ineos Grenadiers teammate Pavel Sivakov to the finish, the Russian all bashed up after a separate earlier fall as the peloton powered through the coastal town of Rimini. He too has abandoned.
Sivakov already knows what it’s like to suffer Grand Tour heartbreak so early in the race: a crash in last year’s opening stage of the Tour forced the 23-year-old to battle through the pain barrier as the wheels fell off Ineos’ challenge in France. Unlike his team leader Egan Bernal, Sivakov made it to Paris last September – and even took a solid fourth place in a stage in the Pyrenees – but his debut was marred by the incident.
This May he entered the Giro on an equal footing as Bernal as co-leader of the Grenadiers. If it looked like Bernal would perhaps emerge as team leader after Sivakov conceded 30 seconds in Sestola, this tactical shift was confirmed one day later when the Russian clipped both a kerb and the branch of a tree on his way down to a heavy fall on his shoulder inside the final 15km.
‘A real disaster’ – Ineos joint-leader Pavel Sivakov crashes into tree
Sivakov looked to be in considerable pain as he rode alongside his team car – and he even waved away Narvaez after his teammate had dropped back to help him to the finish. The implication was clear: why bother both of us losing time when it’s all over for me? It certainly looks that way. And with fears of a broken collarbone as the diagnosis, it may not be simply Sivakov’s GC chances that have been ended.
The absence of Sivakov going forward, should it be confirmed, will be keenly felt by Bernal, who would lose a key mountain lieutenant ahead of Thursday’s summit showdown in Ascoli Piceno.
But at least Ineos Grenadiers have merely been forced into making a decision regarding their Plan A – a decision which had perhaps already been made for them on the sodden road to Sestola. Bahrain Victorious must now shift their focus to Pello Bilbao and Damiano Caruso – two decent and dependable riders, but no match for the departed Landa.
Landa was level on time with Simon Yates and just 10 seconds behind Bernal in the nascent GC before Stage 5, the Basque climber having managed to limit his losses in the opening time trial while showing his form on that hilly Tuesday into the Apennines. As goes the cliché, the stars seemed to be aligned.
Caruso is only four seconds behind Bernal but he’s the best part of a decade older, meaning Bahrain will probably be pinning their hopes on Bilbao, fifth in last year’s Giro off the back of a solid Tour, who finds himself only 23 seconds further back.
Bilbao and Caruso were meant to be the support cast, though. And the evidence was there to suggest that Landa, after years of underachieving and struggling with internal team issues, was finally ready to conduct and orchestrate his finest moment.
We’ll never know if “Landisimo” was in line to win a belated Grand Tour title, if he was even ready to secure his first stage win since the Giro in 2017. But the 104th edition of La Corsa Rosa will be all the poorer for his absence. We can only hope that his injuries are not career-threatening and that the 31-year-old will be back later this year for the Tour or Vuelta.
Thursday marks the first real uphill finish of this Giro and it was one which promised to have Landa playing a crucial role. For 174 kilometres on Wednesday this prospect was still on the cards. And then came the stress and nervousness brought on by a seemingly unnecessarily complicated run into Cattolica - branded a "crazy circus" by Alessandro De Marchi in the maglia rosa - where poor route planning and plain bad luck combined to end the race of one of the favourites for pink.
‘Crazy circus’ - De Marchi criticises ‘dangerous’ finish on Stage 5
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