Frenchman Arnaud Démare emerged victorious after a massive sprint at the end of stage five of the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday and Spaniard Juan Pedro López remained the leader of the general classification.

Démare, a rider for the Groupama–FDJ team, overtook Colombian Fernando Gaviria at the end of the 174-kilometre (108-mile) route between Catania and Messina after sprint favorites Mark Cavendish and Caleb Ewan fell behind early. Italian Giacomo Nizzolo entered third.

Démare suffered during the only ascent of the day, from the second category to Portella Mandrazi. But his team knew how to help him get hooked on the platoon.

It was the sixth Giro stage win for the 30-year-old Démare, but the first this season.

“My victory today means that in cycling you never have to give up,” Démare said. “The sprint was very orderly from my point of view although it could have seemed chaotic. I was patient before launching my sprint.”

“I lost ground on the way up but my teammates did a great job of getting me back on the way down and then holding off Cavendish and Ewan,” he added.

Most of the title contenders crossed the finish line together.

López preserved his 39-second lead over Germany’s Lennard Kämna after seizing the pink jersey on Tuesday. Estonian Rein Taaramäe is third, 58 seconds behind López.

“It’s amazing to have the pink jersey on. I still can’t believe it,” Lopez said. “Today has been my best day as a runner. I stayed in the front positions until the end to avoid problems. I am living a dream.”

Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz, 2019 Giro champion, remains 11th overall, 2:06 minutes behind López. Colombian Santiago Buitrago is 15th, at 2:18.

Meanwhile, two-time champion Vincenzo Nibali announced his plan to retire from cycling at the end of the year. Nibali, one of only seven riders in history to have won all three grand tours, made the announcement upon arrival in his hometown.

Known by the nickname of the “Shark of Messina”, the 37-year-old Sicilian won the Giro in 2013 and 2016.

“I think the time has come to step aside,” Nibali said. “I wanted to wait for the Giro to arrive in Messina, with my family and friends, to make my decision official. Sooner or later this moment had to come, it is time to dedicate more space to what I have sacrificed in these years, my family above all.

At the end of the day, the teams boarded the ferry to mainland Italy for stage six, a 192-kilometre (119-mile) route between Palmi and Scalea, including a fourth-category climb at the start.

The Giro will end on May 29 in Verona.

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