Ackermann sprints to second Giro stage win in heavy rain

German champion Pascal Ackermann led a soaking sprint finish to take his second stage win of the Giro d'Italia on Wednesday after a cold and slippery fifth stage from Frascati to Terracina. Colombian Fernando Gaviria, for Team UAE, finished second with Frenchman Arnaud Demare third for Groupama-FDJ in a stage that was also neutralized for the first 2.7km.

TERRACINA — German champion Pascal Ackermann led a soaking sprint finish to take his second stage win of the Giro d'Italia on Wednesday after a cold and slippery fifth stage from Frascati to Terracina.

Slovenian Primoz Roglic kept the overall leader's pink jersey after the stage was neutralized with nine km remaining due to the treacherous conditions, freeing the sprinters to race for the line while the main men could stay safe in the pack.

Colombian Fernando Gaviria, for Team UAE, finished second behind the Bora-Hansgrohe rider with Frenchman Arnaud Demare third for Groupama-FDJ in a stage that was also neutralized for the first 2.7km. Ackermann had also won Sunday's second stage.

"All the stage was scary, all the descents, you cannot see that much in the peloton because of all the water," said Ackermann, wearing the cyclamen jersey for the sprinter classification leader. "It just was lucky that nobody crashed."

The German said it had effectively been a double sprint to the finish for him after he had to brake in the last 250 meters before harnessing all the power in his legs in a final dash for the line.

Injured 2017 champion Tom Dumoulin abandoned the race shortly after the start after a crash on Tuesday, with his focus now on the Tour de France.

Former Giro d'Italia winner Dumoulin abandoned the race shortly after the start of the fifth stage on Wednesday.

The Dutch rider, one of the favourites for the three-week race, injured his left knee in a massive pileup about six km from the line in a 235-km ride from Orbetello on Tuesday.

"Tom Dumoulin’s injuries have proved too painful and he is forced to abandon the Giro d’Italia in the early kilometers of stage 5," Team Sunweb said on Twitter.

The team had said earlier that he had been cleared to race by medical staff and would "give it his best shot".

British cycling launches new mental health strategy

British cycling, criticized in the past for a 'culture of fear', announced on Wednesday a new mental health strategy that includes screening elite riders every six months.

The launch coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week in Britain.

Nigel Jones, head of medical services for the British cycling team, said in a statement that the strategy would focus "on the development of resilient people through a more psychologically informed environment."

He added there would be a shift "to a proactive approach of educating our coaches and support staff to allow for better understanding, toleration, containment and ultimately decreasing the prevalence and impact of challenging behaviors and mental distress."

British cycling was heavily criticized in a 2017 independent review which identified failings in governance and leadership following allegations of bullying and sexism.

Cycling is one of Britain’s most successful and heavily funded sports, enjoying huge success at Olympics and Paralympics.

British cycling now employs two full-time sports psychologists.

"New athletes joining the program will undergo a mental health screening and existing program athletes will be screened on a six-monthly basis, allowing us to identify athletes who are struggling mentally but may not recognize this themselves," said Jones.

"Finally, we will be providing clearly signposted mental health pathways which enable the athlete to feel comfortable when seeking help and know the range of options available to them."

Team performance director Stephen Park said British cycling was committed to athlete welfare.

"It’s important that we create a culture and environment in which our athletes feel supported, and one which they want to be a part of. Psychology plays an integral part in that," he said.

"Our ambition is to top the medal tables once again in Tokyo 2020, and we now have some solid foundations in place to support our athletes in achieving our ambitions." — Reuters