Fernando Gaviria powered to his second stage victory at the 2017 Giro d'Italia in a fiercely competitive sprint finish in Messina.
Gaviria’s Quick-Step Floors Pro Cycling teammates produced an accomplished lead-out on the long final straight, making a late move to allow the Colombian to forge ahead of Sam Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe) when the Irish sprinter looked favourite for the stage win.
As Bennett slowed down before the finish line, knowing he was beaten by Gaviria, Jakub Mareczko (Wilier-Triestina) surged through on the left to snatch second place.
André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) was fourth and Phil Bauhaus (Team Sunweb) was fifth.
Gaviria’s team-mate Bob Jungels stays in the Maglia Rosa ahead of Stage 6. Gaviria, who also won Stage 3 in Cagliari on Sunday, overtakes Greipel in the points classification as Quick-Step Floors enjoy a fruitful opening to the first Grand Tour of the season.
Maciej Paterski (CCC Sprandi Polkowice) and Evgeny Shalunov (Gazprom-Rusvelo) had escaped together in the opening kilometres, destined to spend a long day out in front.
The day's only climb came at Andronico Sant’Alfio where Paterski took maximum points. When the peloton rumbled through nearly four minutes later Daniel Teklehaimenot of Team Dimension Data claimed the final KOM point of the day.
Quick-Step Floors Pro Cycling - with Jungels in pink and Gaviria gunning for a second stage - were toiling at the front as the peloton wound its way towards Taormina.
Lotto Soudal were and ORICA-SCOTT were also prominent, as were Vincenzo Nibali’s Team Bahrain Merida, working to keep their leader safe ahead of the finish in his home town of Messina.
As the breakaway passed the 100km to go mark, the gap to the Maglia Rosa group stood at 3’23”, and local “Nibali Fever” was becoming ever more apparent with large crowds massed along the roads in Castiglione di Sicilia.
Behind the break, Gaviria sprinted for intermediate points at Taormina and Roccalumera, thus overtaking Greipel in the points classification.
At Taormina the gap was was 3’30” and with 50km left it was 3’23”. With 20km to go, the break's advantage had shrunk to 55” with the peloton comfortably in control.
Paterski and Shalunov put their heads down and strained to hold on, but the gap was plummeting and the game was up with 14.6km remaining, on the outskirts of Messina, as the peloton took it up charge for a fast-paced finish.
Bora-hansgrohe powered away at the front, cheered on by big crowds on the streets of Messina. Luka Pibernik (Team Bahrain Merida) broke off the front - and the Slovenian sat up to celebrate crossing the finish line, clearly unaware there was another circuit to race.
That comedy moment having passed, Lotto Soudal, ORICA-SCOTT, Bora-hansgrohe and UAE Team Emirates all tried to set it up for their sprinters in the closing kilometres.
A long straight run to the line made it an incredibly hectic bunch sprint. Gaviria proved he is going to be tough to beat at this Giro with another explosion of straight-line speed.
Stage results: Top 10
1 Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) 3 h 40'11“
2 Jakub Mareczko (Wilier Triestina)
3 Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe)
4 André Greipel (Lotto Soudal)
5 Phil Bauhaus (Team Sunweb)
6 Kristian Sbaragli (Dimension Data)
7 Ryan Gibbons (Dimension Data)
8 Roberto Ferrari (UAE Team Emirates)
9 Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo)
10 Enrico Battaglin (Team LottoNl-Jumbo)
Top 10 GC after Stage 5
1 Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors Pro Cycling) 23 h 22'07"
2 Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) +06"
3 Adam Yates (ORICA-SCOTT) +10"
4 Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale)
5 Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida)
6 Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb)
7 Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team)
8 Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo)
9 Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing Team)
10 Andrey Amador (Movistar Team)