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Giro Stage 5 Preview: Piombino-Orvieto, 191 km

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After a day of mourning, the Giro d’Italia returns to the bike racing. Wednesday’s stage runs southeast from Piombino to Orvieto. We’re in Umbria now, as the Giro makes its way south toward the first week’s finale in Sicilia.

It’s an up and down day with three short climbs at Saragiolo, Croce di Fighine, and Valico di Monte Nibbio. On this final climb, the riders will race over gravel roads. Another 10 kilometer sector of gravel finishes just outside 10 kilometers to race. If a team decides to drive hard on these sections, the race could split up here.

There is an uphill to the line this time, and it comes after 5 kilometers of climbing to the town of Orvieto, which perches on steep volcanic cliffs. 2011 Giro d'Italia mapFor about 500 meters, the gradient pitches up to 11%. Paging Joaquím Rodríguez. The race finishes in the historic Piazza Cahen.

Fun fact! Orvieto boasts an extensive underground city carved into the volcanic rock beneath it. During the city’s early history, the noble houses had escape routes tunneled into the rock in the event of siege. Also, there’s a rather lovely cathedral in the gothic style.

Stage Battle: This stage is classic Italian bike racing with short climbs and a scattiste’s finish. The climbs are not long enough to suit the pure climbers. Instead, it's a day for the fast-finishing all-arounders. Giovanni Visconti or Stefano Garzelli, among the local boys, might be in with a chance here, and Joaquím Rodríguez is increasingly making a career of winning steep uphill finishes like this one. Not to be overlooked, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali may wish to save their legs for later, but sometimes it’s worth picking off a few seconds early in the pursuit of the Pink Jersey.

Maglia Rosa Matters: This stage is not obviously a stage for the general classification, but these uphill finishes always offer both danger and opportunity. The favorites for the overall will need to ride close to the front to avoid any possible splits in the field on the final climb. Also, there’s no harm in putting in a little dig if the legs are good. All the same, the stage 7 climb to Montevergine di Mercogliano is the more obvious place to see the bigs come out to play. The general classification riders will need to ride wisely over the gravel sectors. Overall, it's a day for the bigs to stay out of trouble, yes, but also to seize opportunity if it comes.

Cue Opera For: The sprinters, who will likely call grupetto in Saragiolo. Also, any favorite who arrives at the final climb in poor position. Racing from the back is a bad idea on a finish like this one, and an easy way to lose precious time early in the game.

Stage 5 Maps and Profile at La Gazzetta. (Click Altimetria for the profile.)