Race favourite Alberto Contador has taken the Giro d’Italia’s overall leader’s pink jersey from Australian Simon Clarke after a fifth stage win by Slovenian Jan Polanc, while Richie Porte climbed to third overall.
The race favourites leapt into action on the tour’s first mountain stage, with Slovenian Jan Polanc winning the stage after an engaging concluding climb to Abetone on Wednesday.
Polanc got in an early breakaway and attacked on the final climb – 17 kilometres at an average gradient of 5.4 per cent.
He clocked little more than four hours over the 152-kilometre stage across central Italy, which started in La Spezia.
French veteran Sylvain Chavanel, another breakaway member, finished second, 1min31sec behind, and Italian title hopeful Fabio Aru crossed third with the same time, with Contador and Porte right behind.
In the overall standings, Contador is two seconds ahead of Aru, with Porte 20 seconds behind in third.
Previous leader Clarke dropped far behind to be 18th overall and 2min21sec back.
A two-time Tour de France champion, Contador won the Giro in 2008 and was also triumphant in 2011 but was stripped of that title for testing positive in the 2010 Tour.
“There’s still a long way to go,” Contador said.
“This was just an aperitivo.
“My attack wasn’t planned. I felt good, looked around, and went.
“I’m happy with the situation after five days. I didn’t expect the pink jersey, but to have it is always fantastic. … Although the one that counts is the pink jersey in Milan, so if someone else takes it tomorrow, it won’t be a problem.”
Contador was the first of the overall contenders to attack on the climb and Aru and Porte quickly followed.
Aru won a sprint for third, which carried a four-second bonus.
“I’m happy to be in this battle,” Aru said.
“They’re great champions and being among them is unbelievable.”
Stage six on Thursday is a 183-kilometre leg from Montecatini Terme to Castiglione Della Pescaia featuring flat sections at the start and finish and hills in between.
The 98th Giro ends May 31 in Milan.