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Tim Merlier – Giro d'Italia 2021, stage five – live updates - GETTY IMAGES

Tim Merlier – Giro d’Italia 2021, stage five – live updates – GETTY IMAGES

Live coverage starts at 1.30pm (BST)

07:45 AM

Ciao!

Hello and welcome to our live rolling blog from stage four at the Giro d’Italia, the 177-kilometre run from Modena to Cattolica.

Following yesterday’s brutal stage in the Apennines that saw yet another surprise winner when breakaway rider Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates) landed his first victory on European soil, today’s panflat course should offer the riders some welcome respite. A day of riding in the rain across a series of tough climbs will affect some riders more than others, but with the forecast looking fairly bleak as it often can be in May the coping with the conditions can be as key to winning the Giro d’Italia as arriving in Italy in top form.

One rider that copes well in the bad conditions and has regained some of his top form following a turbulent couple of years is Alessandro De Marchi (Israel Start-up Nation) who today will wear the maglia rosa, the leader’s pink jersey, for the first time in his long career. Let’s have a glance at the main classification podiums . . .

Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) retained the maglia ciclamino, the cyclamen jersey, as leader in the points classification after the big breakaway scooped up the majority of the points yesterday meaning there was no change in the top five of that particular competition.

Having scooped up 18 points atop Colle Passerino en route to winning yesterday’s stage, Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates) became the leader in the mountains classification and so will celebrate his 30th birthday today wearing the maglia azzurra, the blue jersey. Providing the American completes the stage, then he will hold that overnight as there are no categorised climbs today. The birthday boy will be getting a trip to the podium. Ain’t that just swell!

Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ) became the outright leader in the youth classification after finishing seventh on Tuesday. Although I cannot 100 per cent confirm this, I think he may be the first Hungarian to wear a leader’s jersey at a grand tour – the 22-year-old from Csomor will be dressed in the maglia bianca, the white jersey.

And so, what’s on the menu today? After setting off from Modena at a slightly later time than usual – 12.20pm (BST) – the peloton heads down the ancient Roman Via Aemilia, almost straight as an arrow, towards the intriguingly named town of Cattolica.

Stage five mapStage five map

Stage five map

Whether or not the stage was dreamt up while dining on a plate of borlenghi – a type of flatbread from Modena – is unknown, but its profile certainly looks as panflat. Despite riding past Imola where there are plenty of short testing climbs, today’s stage features just over 600 metres of elevation and not a single categorised climb.

Stage five profileStage five profile

Stage five profile

If you have read this far, then you will have probably worked out what type of rider the stage suits: a sprinter. But which one?

With a sample size of just one it is difficult to really say any one fastman is head and shoulders above another at this year’s Giro d’Italia, however having won on Sunday confidence must be coursing through the veins of Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix). The Belgian did, though, appear to struggle in in the medium mountains so it will be interesting to see how he has recovered.

It was interesting to note that Lotto-Soudal did not have a single rider in yesterday’s 25-man breakaway – including Thomas De Gendt, their specialist and good friend of Alessandro De Marchi – which immediately got me thinking that the team management have earmarked today’s stage for their little pocket rocket Caleb Ewan. Ewan has a tendency to start his grand tours slowly, often taking a few stages to get his legs really firing and so I really believe today could be his day. The Australian and his lead-out man Roger Kluge finished yesterday’s stage 180th and 179th, while De Gendt was 177th out of 183. If there is a headwind at the finish in the coastal town of Cattolica – which Ewan and his team will be praying for – then that would make him my favourite. If not, then it will be a close call.

Fernando Gaviria (UAE Emirates) has shown some surprisingly good form good form thus far and has been there or thereabouts, while the same could be said of Elia Viviani (Cofidis). Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) looked a little nervous to me in the sprint finish on Sunday, though I may be over-analysing things.

European and Italian road champion Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka-Assos) has more runners-up spots at the Giro d’Italia than any other rider in its 104 editions, so the 32-year-old will be desperate to consign that statistic to the green litter zone, but will today be his day? Anyway, that’s enough speculation from me for the moment.

Back at 1.30pm (BST) when today’s live coverage will begin in earnest. Ciao, for now.

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