MESSINA, Italy (Reuters) – Frenchman Arnaud Demare of Groupama–FDJ came through a packed field to win stage five of the Giro d’Italia, a 172-kilometre ride from Catania to Messina, on Wednesday.
Britain’s sprint specialist Mark Cavendish, looking to win his second stage of this year’s Giro, and Australian rider Caleb Ewan were heavily fancied to be frontrunners in Sicily, but fell away as the flat race approached Messina.
The peloton then eased off with Cavendish and Ewan out of contention, with a huge group forming at the front with 10 kilometres to go.
The victory was anyone’s for the taking, with Groupama-FDJ getting Demare into position before a tight final corner, with the Frenchman taking his sixth career Giro stage win ahead of Colombian Fernando Gaviria in second and Italian Giacomo Nizzolo in third.
Youngster Juan Pedro Lopez came of age on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna on Tuesday, becoming the first Spaniard since Alberto Contador in 2015 to take the pink jersey, and retains his place at the top of the general classification after crossing the line in 58th in Messina.
The Giro leaves Sicily and heads for the Italian mainland next, with Thursday’s stage six a 192-kilometre ride from Palmi to Scalea.
(Reporting by Peter Hall; editing by Martyn Herman)