Luxembourg’s Bob Jungels kept Britain’s Geraint Thomas at bay to retain the Giro d’Italia pink jersey yesterday, after a crazy fifth stage that saw two riders lift their arms in triumph at the finish.
Jungels, who took the race lead from Quick Step teammate Fernando Gaviria after a fourth-stage finish on Mount Etna, maintained his six-second advantage on Sky rider Thomas.
But at the conclusion of an undulating ride from the foot of Mount Etna to Messina that brought an end to two stages on Sicily, the crowd were given some unexpected entertainment.
Gaviria, making his Giro and Grand Tour debut, outfoxed Irish sprinter Sam Bennett after emerging from the Bora rider’s back wheel in the final 200m of a long and wind-hit home straight to claim his second victory, after breaking his Giro duck on stage three.
In doing so, the 22-year-old from Colombia became only the second rider this century, after former champion Damiano Cunego, to claim two stages on the race before his 23rd birthday.
Minutes earlier, Gaviria’s thunder was stolen by Luka Pibernik, who races for the Bahrain team of defending Giro champion Vincenzo Nibali.
As the peloton raced towards the finish line for the first time, signalling the start of a final, 6km closing circuit, Pibernik launched a solo attack that held all the way to the finish line, where he sat up and spread his arms in victory. But he was celebrating alone. As thousands of puzzled fans looked on, Pibernik quickly realised his embarrassing gaffe before being swallowed up by the peloton as they began the final circuit.
As the sprinters’ teams battled to move their stage contenders to the front, Jungels remained alert to late attacks from his pink-jersey rivals and held off Thomas, but said the “crazy” circuit made it a nervous finale.
Gaviria said: “I’m happy with two victories, the legs are now responding the way we wanted.”
He had also taken the sprinter’s “ciclamen” jersey for the points competition.
Italian Jakub Mareczko finished second, with Bennett third.