Colombian Fernando Gaviria claimed his second victory of the Giro d’Italia as stage five ended in a sprint finish at Messina, where Quick-Step Floors team-mate Bob Jungels retained the overall race leader’s pink jersey.
After Tuesday’s eventful run surrounding Mount Etna, which saw a big crash as well as the expulsion of Bahrain-Merida rider Javier Moreno for pushing Team Sky’s Diego Rosa, the 159 kilometre course starting at Pedara passed without major incident as the sprinters took centre stage.
Russian Evgeny Shalunev, of Gazprom-Rusvelo, and Poland’s CCC Sprandi rider Maciej Paterski set off on an early breakaway, but were always likely to be reeled in over the flat second part of the race along Sicily’s coastline.
As the peleton weaved its way around two circuits of Merida, the home town of defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, Bahrain-Merida rider Luka Pibernik celebrated what he thought was victory over the line, only to suddenly realise there was still a lap to go.
Quick-Step Floors played the expected bunch finish to perfection as Gaviria came off the wheel of Irish rider Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) with 300 metres left to cross ahead of a fast-finishing Jakub Mareczko of Wilier-Selle Italia.
Luxembourg racer Jungels keeps the Maglia Rosa as general classification leader, six seconds ahead of Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas and 10 ahead of Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) and Nibali.
Shalunev and Paterski had earlier worked hard over the first part of the stage, which saw the gap on the peleton up to three-and-a-half minutes heading into the more flat final 50km.
The pair, though, were slowly clawed back in by the peleton, with Bahrain-Merida among those leading the drive as they protected Nibali, while Team Sky pushed Thomas along to help cut the advantage down to 53 seconds with 20kms to go.
It was only a matter of time before the fast-paced peleton absorbed the breakaway duo, who sat up as the race headed down into Messina for the final 14.5kms.