Kaden Groves scored his maiden stage win in the Giro d’Italia on a day filled with drama on wet roads. Australians have won twice in five days … but a main talking point of the fifth stage is two crashes involving former race leader Remco Evenepoel, and another incident that took out Mark Cavendish just before the finish line.

By Rob Arnold. (Photos: Stefano Sirotti)

Kaden Groves, take a bow. The 24-year-old sprinter with the Alpecin-Deceuninck team is now a stage winner of the Giro d’Italia. He was quick when it mattered, and he also managed to stay on his bike when others in the race weren’t so lucky.

The result of the 106th Giro’s fifth stage, 171km from Atripalda to Salerno, is something Groves can be proud of as he takes the total tally of Australian wins in the Italian Grand Tour to 40.

The very fact that he was in contention for the win is impressive considering Groves was one of many riders involved in crashes on a day when rain and wet roads dramatically impacted the Giro.

From this angle, it looks like the typical end of another sprint stage… a satisfied winner and a smile for Kaden Groves.

Meanwhile, behind the winner all kinds of chaos was unfolding with Cavendish sliding across the road after having his front wheel taken out as he was sprinting for the line.

Inside the final 10km, while trying to avoid a fallen rider, Groves took evasive action but wasn’t able to save himself from falling. Still, he was able to quickly remount before going on to beat the winner of stage two, Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious) and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) to the line.

Meanwhile, the pictures tell the story of how lucky Groves was to escape the finale unscathed.

The results show that Mark Cavendish just missed out on a podium place in his first Giro with the Astana-Qazaqstan team… but the images explain that he achieved this result after sliding across the wet bitumen at the finish line with chaos of the crash that took him out unfolding behind him.

Groves has a collection of unique photos of his maiden stage win in the Giro; in some he’s seen smiling and saluting his success… but the focus in Salerno isn’t necessarily on the winner. Rather, it’s the tangle of bikes and bodies behind him that draws the eye in and makes you appreciate how tough these riders are.

Cavendish will ride again and look to improve on the most bizarre fourth place he’s earned in a long career that often involves having to deal with odd circumstances. The 37-year-old Manxman will likely look back on stage five with bemusement and a sense of relief that he is still able to ride.

Andrea Vendrame will have different memories of Salerno: the 28-year-old Italian from AG2R Citroën Team ended stage five on a medical stretcher with a shoulder separation and a nasty wound that would require stitching.

The incident at the finish was caused by Alberto Dainese of Team DSM who was later relegated. It started on the right-hand side of the road but finished with more riders becoming crash victims on the left (below) after Cavendish’s dramatic slide across the road.

Groves’ victory after crashing

There’s something about the opening stages of the Giro d’Italia that seems to insist that rain falls and roads become treacherously slippery. Stage five in 2023 is certainly not the first time wet conditions have influenced the outcome, and the narrative of the race.

The weather was not a small-talk topic at the Giro yesterday. Rather, it became the focus of concern for all the riders as they faced over four and a half hours of racing in the rain.

There were falls in the early escape group. There was a crash involving a stray dog and the former race leader, Remco Evenepoel. And there was an incident that also took out the eventual winner of the stage around seven kilometres from the finish.

“There was a crash in front of me,” said Groves after his impressive win in challenging circumstances. “I pulled my front brake too hard [and] with a bit of panic I guess I came down… Luckily with three kilometres to go, I managed to get back to the front.”

Groves was third in the third stage, won by former team-mate Michael Matthews, and it’s clear that he’s arrived at the Giro in good form. For him to get back on the bike and put himself in contention for a sprint win only a few kilometres after falling highlights his commitment to the job he’s been assigned by his new team for 2023.

“I was already third wheel with one kilometre to go,” said Groves of the finale, “and I had to drop back behind a DSM rider. But I believe I did a very long sprint [and] it means a lot for me to win a stage here.”

Evenepoel and the rainbow curse?

On day five of his second start in the Giro d’Italia, the world champion finally got the chance to wear the rainbow jersey. Until stage five, Remco Evenepoel was clad in different colours: the Belgian champion’s jersey for the TT of stage one, which he won… then came three days in the maglia rosa as race leader.

In stage four, the 23-year-old surrendered the pink jersey when a breakaway succeeded and one of Team DSM’s Norwegians, 23-year-old Andreas Leknessund, took over GC leadership thanks to a second place behind his escape companion Aurélien Paret-Peintre (AG2R Citroën Team).

Evenepoel dropped to second in the GC standings and arrived at the wet start of stage five wearing a black rain jacket with the world champion’s stripes showing. He seemed pleased to make his debut in the celebrated colours but also wary of the slippery roads that lay ahead.


The first cause for concern for Evenepoel came courtesy of a dog that wandered onto the road in the opening hour of stage five. It ran directly into the path of Soudal-Quickstep’s Davide Ballerini who crashed just ahead of the world champion. Unable to avoid his fallen team-mate, Evenepoel also hit the ground hard.

After a considerable roadside consultation, he remounted and returned to the peloton that had slowed down out of respect for the former race leader.

The so-called ‘rainbow curse’ struck again at the end of the stage when, inside the final three kilometres, Evenepoel crashed for a second time.

Although he took some time to get back on the bike after the first fall, the team later explained that he was largely uninjured. The rider also gestured to TV cameras that all was okay… but there is some concern about the implications of the second crash.

“Following his second crash he has a lot of pain on his right side and a hematoma with contraction of his muscles and some problems with his sacrum bone,” reported the team doctor Toon Cruyt in a release issued by his team hours after the race.

“Hopefully, with some good massage and osteopathic treatment followed by a good night’s rest things will be better. We will know more Thursday morning, but what’s sure is that stage six will be a difficult one for him.”

Rain resulted in a stage filled with incidents that will surely impact the Giro. Whether or not the injuries will hinder Evenepoel as he continues his quest to win the maglia rosa remains to be seen.

For now, however, Australian sport fans can be pleased about the strong presence of their riders in a race that has only just gotten started. A year after an Aussie won the pink jersey for the first time, there have already been a couple of stage wins for Australian riders and there are still plenty of reasons to tune in as the race continues.

Leknessund will wear the maglia rosa for a second day. Evenepoel retains his second place on GC (as his second crash was inside the final 3km). Groves has a new trophy to take home. And, all going well, there’ll be blue skies and a bit of sunshine for stage six which starts and finishes in Napoli.



– By Rob Arnold