A well designed race course has as much of an effect on the outcome of the stage as the efforts of anyone actually on a bicycle, a fact demonstrated in the closing kilometers of stage five of the 2012 Giro d'Italia. Race organizers placed the stage's only major climb a mere 10km before the finish line, a placement that derailed many of those who would ordinarily contend for a sprint win.
The stage started with the typical breakaway jumping out in front, but they were just as typically chased down and swallowed up. As the peloton approached the category four climb, two separate crashes took down riders from Santa Rosa based Team BMC. Former race leader Taylor Phinney went down in the first crash, and as the peloton moved over the climb another crash took down BMC's Frank Schleck.
The rest of the teams didn't fare much better. They may not have fallen, but BMC's Thor Hushovd, Garmin's Tyler Farrar, and Rabobank's Theo Bos all suffered over the climb and were not factors in the final stretch. Those kilometers came down to Team Sky, pulling Mark Cavendish to the line, and Orica-Greenedge, doing the same for Matthew Harley Goss. The two teams fought fiercely through the final kilometer, alternating positioning at the front of the charge and attempting to shut the other team out. In the final 500m it was Sky and Cavendish in front, and if he's already got the drop on you there's no stopping Cavendish when he puts the hammer down. Cav picks up his second stage win of the Giro and Goss takes second.
The GC standings remain mostly unchanged; Goss' result is good enough to bump him up to fourth place. Garmin-Barracuda still controls the top three positions, with their man Ramunas Navardauskas holding on to the Maglia Rosa. Most of the GC contenders are still waiting to make their move, so the fierce battles for the leader's jersey are still to come.
Stay tuned to this story stream for recaps, stage previews, tv information and more from the 2012 Giro d'Italia. All your other cycling needs can be met at SB Nation's cycling blog Podium Cafe.