Giro d'Italia stage 5: Benjamin Thomas takes a dramatic win from the breakaway

The sprint teams mess up as Cofidis take their first victory of the season and Tadej Pogačar retains the maglia rosa

Clock15:14, Wednesday 8th May 2024
Benjamin Thomas takes Cofidis' first win of the season on stage 5 of the Giro d'Italia

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Benjamin Thomas takes Cofidis' first win of the season on stage 5 of the Giro d'Italia

Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis) sprinted to a surprise victory on stage 5 of the Giro d’Italia as a breakaway of four valiantly held off the peloton on what was supposed to be a sprint day.

After going clear midway through the stage, the break of Thomas, Enzo Paleni (Groupama-FDJ), Andrea Pietrobon (Polti Kometa) and Michael Valgren (EF Education-EasyPost) was never expected to stay away into Lucca, but a misjudgement and lack of cooperation in the chase meant the sprinters never closed the gap to the opportunists.

Pietrobon tried to go long in the finale, but a well-timed sprint from Thomas delivered him to the win, just in front of Valgren with Pietrobon settling for third on the line.

“It was like a long, long team pursuit,” Thomas, a decorated track rider, said at the finish.

"We did an amazing break. I don’t believe it. It was really hard in the final, every pull was full gas. It’s unbelievable.

"With 10km to go we had 40, 50 seconds still and it was a tailwind, so we knew that we couldn’t play with the bunch, and if we were going at 60 kilometres per hour it wasn’t for the bunch to close,” he concluded.

From the sprint behind, Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek) finished fastest to take fifth, but there was frustration for his team Lidl-Trek after they did much of the work in the chase, but a lack of cooperation meant the peloton just couldn’t bring back the leaders.

Despite working hard earlier in the day, Alpecin-Deceuninck refused to work with Lidl-Trek until late in the finale, and it was a similar attitude from Soudal Quick-Step, with the teams of Kaden Groves and Tim Merlier placing the responsibility on stage 4 winner Milan’s squad.

Read more: Transfer mechanics: What next for Ineos Grenadiers?

However, the game of politics didn’t pay off for the sprinters, with their lack of cohesion allowing the break to stay away and steal the victory.

Alpecin-Deceuninck make it hard early on

Rolling out of Genova for the fifth stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia, there was a bit of a fight for the day’s breakaway, with plenty of riders interested in being up the road and some punchy rises out of the town to launch attacks on. After a few kilometres of rotating, a group of four established itself at the front of the race: Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ), Simon Geschke (Cofidis), Mattia Bais (Polti Kometa) and Manuele Tarozzi (VF Group-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè).

However, this situation wasn’t really settled, with the break only getting a minute ahead and never looking fully committed to the move, whilst a couple of riders tried, then stopped trying to bridge across. Things did eventually settle after an hour and 40km of racing, but the leaders were still kept on a very tight leash – under a minute.

Starting the Passo del Bracco, the one hard and long climb of the day after 47km, Alpecin-Deceuninck set about making it difficult to try and challenge their rival sprinters. Like on stage 4, Fabio Jakobsen (dsm-firmenich PostNL) was the first to struggle, dropping out the back early to climb at his own pace, with two teammates sent to help him.

Alpecin were unrelenting all the way up the 15km climb, with Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step) the next big sprinter to be distanced, some 4km from the top, with Caleb Ewan (Jayco AlUla) also slipping back near the top. The breakaway crested the climb alone, but the pace from the bunch meant they were brought back shortly after, and all was together with still 100km left to race. Jakobsen, Merlier and Ewan rejoined the peloton on the descent.

Calm returns and a new break on the flat

After a tough start to the stage, things did calm down again as the race returned to the flat, though Alpecin were still policing things. At the first intermediate sprint, Groves took maximum points, ahead of Olav Kooij and Jonathan Milan, whilst Christophe Laporte (Visma-Lease a Bike) crashed in the lead-in and took some time to get riding again, suffering from some abrasions.

After the sprint, Alpecin let up enough for a new break to go up the road, with three of the same teams as the first move: Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis), Enzo Paleni (Groupama-FDJ), Andrea Pietrobon (Polti Kometa) and Michael Valgren (EF Education-EasyPost). This quartet got more of a gap than their predecessors, going out towards two minutes quite quickly, as there was some disagreement in the peloton over who would control things.

At the next sprint, with 58km to go, Alpecin dominated things from the bunch to sweep up the remaining points, putting three riders in front of Milan to minimise the points available to the sprint leader.

Tensions rise into the finale, but the break holds firm

With 36km to go, a crash on some road furniture saw a handful of riders go down on a corner. Riley Pickrell (Israel-Premier Tech) came off worst, standing up quickly but with blood running down his face, though he did start riding again. 10km later, another crash in the bunch involved Attila Valter (Visma-Lease a Bike), Tobias Foss (Ineos Grenadiers) and Mike Woods (Israel-Premier Tech) as the tension in the peloton became clear. Up front, the four leaders were still a minute ahead with 22km to go, and the gap was coming down slightly but not at any pace.

On the final, fourth-category Montemagno climb, it felt as if Alpecin were going to pull again, but that didn’t really materialise, with Lidl-Trek pacing the ascent instead. On the flat, it became clear that Quick-Step and Alpecin were not wanting to cooperate with Lidl-Trek, which was frustrating the American team. With the gap still at 50 seconds with 13km to go, the other sprint teams finally gave in and began to help, clearly knowing the leaders could now stay away.

With 3km to go, the gap was still 30 seconds, with the four riders working desperately hard to try and hold off the bunch. Alpecin were riding with a similar desperation to now try and close the gap, and make sure their earlier work wasn’t wasted. Ultimately it was too little, too late and with 1,500m to go it became clear that the catch was not going to be made. In the final kilometre, it was Pietrobon who tried to go long in the sprint, but Thomas sat pretty on the back of the group, winding things up for the sprint.

When he did launch, the accomplished track sprinter had the speed needed to seal the deal, and he powered to the line just in front of Valgren and Pietrobon.

The bunch eventually finished 11 seconds back on the winner, with Milan rolling Ewan for fifth, but those results will be little consolation for the sprinters who simply made a mistake in their tactics and approach on Wednesday.

Keep up to date with the latest tech news on the GCN website. For everything you need to know about the 2024 Giro d'Italia, from the history of the race to this year's route and start list, be sure to check out our dedicated race hub.

Race Results


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THOMAS Benjamin


3H 59' 59"


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EF Education-EasyPost



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Team Polti Kometa



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+ 3"


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MILAN Jonathan


+ 11"


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EWAN Caleb

Team Jayco-AlUla



de flag


Bahrain Victorious



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Soudal Quick-Step



nl flag


Team Visma | Lease a Bike



ee flag




Provided by FirstCycling

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