Remco Evenepoel suffered two crashes during a dramatic stage five of the Giro d’Italia, first brought down by a stray dog and then falling again in a frantic finale.
Rainy conditions throughout the stage led to multiple incidents, particularly on the final run into Salerno, where the Belgian crashed for a second time and Mark Cavendish also went down heavily in the closing sprint, sliding across the finish line to take fourth place.
Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) was first over the line to take the stage win. Jumbo-Visma’s Primoz Roglic and the race leader, Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM), were both held up by a big crash on a turn 7km from the finish, but the Norwegian stayed in the pink jersey.
Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) was then caught in a separate collision with 1,500m of racing to go and the team doctor, Toon Cruyt, fears Thursday’s stage in Naples will be “difficult” for the rider.
“After the first crash, things looked to be good for Remco, which at that moment was a big relief,” Cruyt said. “The problem is that following his second crash he has a lot of pain on his right side.
“Hopefully, with massage, treatment and a good night’s rest, things will go better,” Cruyt added. “We will know more Thursday morning, but what’s sure is that stage six will be a difficult one for him.”
“I surprised myself today,” said Groves. “Everything was going well but then I crashed at the roundabout with 7km to go. Luckily, I put my chain back on fast enough and the group came back together. The guys did a good job earlier and then luckily I was good enough to be in position and had the legs to lead out and win.
“It’s a dream to win, this is a race I’ve been focusing on since November or December … After two third places this week, [the team] delivered me to a win.” The Australian beat Jonathan Milan (Bahrain-Victorious) and Trek-Segafredo’s Mads Pederson to the finish line.
Behind the leading trio, Cavendish (Astana-Qazaqstan) came off the power after his wheel slipped, before Alberto Dainese cut across him. The Manxman slid across the line in fifth, but was later upgraded as Team DSM’s Dainese was relegated by the race jury for his role in the incident.
“My knee is a little sore but don’t think anything is broken. I don’t have the pain of anything broken,” Cavendish reflected back at his hotel. “[I was] in a perfect position, kick for the sprint, back wheel on the white line – and when I kick it slides the wheel and circumstances after that.”
“Alberto has caught me and that is part of sprinting,” he continued. “I just hope everybody else who crashed is OK too. I saw some stretchers, but we try again and congratulations to Kaden.”
Evenepoel’s difficult day began just a few kilometres into the race, when a dog ran onto the road and into the peloton’s path. The pre-race favourite and teammate Davide Ballerini had to swerve to avoid the careless canine, with Evenepoel then falling off his bike.
The 23-year-old was left waiting on the roadside for the team car, and appeared to be in danger of losing time. He was helped back to a slow-moving main group by his teammates, offering a thumbs up to the camera. The dog did not appear to be harmed in the close call, instead retreating back to the roadside.
Evenepoel remains in second place overall, 28 seconds down on Leknessund. Aurelién Paret-Peintre, the winner of stage four on Tuesday, stays on the podium in third place.
João Almeida, fourth overall, summed up the mood in the peloton after a stressful day on treacherous roads. “It was four hours of racing,” the UAE-Team Emirates rider said. “And I lost four years of life today.”