David Millar’s chance of winning the fifth stage of the Giro d’Italia was dashed when his chain snapped as he was poised to attack his four breakaway companions with little more than a kilometre to go.

The incident happened with Millar about to make a bid for victory at Contursi Terme. The five riders were just short of the kilometre-to-go banner on the uphill finish.

As Millar got out of the saddle to accelerate he suddenly slumped down onto the top tube, just managing to keep the bike upright. It was later confirmed his chain snapped.

Tinkoff’s Pavel Brutt, who was towards the front of the group, seized the moment to attack and won the 203-kilometre stage.

Millar threw his bike over the barriers at the side of the road and, with the team cars a long way behind, there was no chance of a bike change.

Certainly Millar was looking good at that point. But the dream scenario of two British stage wins in a row was left in tatters.

Millar’s hopes of becoming the first British rider since Robert Millar to win road stages in all three grand tours will have to wait for another day.

Because the mechanical problem happened in the final three kilometres, Millar did not lose any time towards the overall classification.

He crossed the line in 119th place, around four minutes down, but was awarded the same time as fourth-placed Perez, who was the last of the leading group across the line. Millar also gets a six-second time bonus, but that will feel like losing a pound and finding a penny.

It’s not the first time he’s been denied a big win by a chain-related catastrophe. In the prologue of the Centenary Tour de France in 2003, he was all set to smash Brad McGee’s best time when his chain fell off as he approached the final corner. Having elected to run his Cofidis-issued time trial bike without a front mech, the chain bounced off as he clattered over the Parisian cobbles. He lost out by a fraction of a second.

HOW IT HAPPENED
Today Millar (Slipstream) was in the five-man break that went clear after 17 kilometres. He was with Brutt, Luis Felipe Laverde (CSF Group Navigare), Francisco Perez (Caisse d’Epargne) and Johannes Frölingher (Gerolsteiner).

The quintet’s lead built to almost 10 minutes with about 90 kilometres to go. In the bunch Liquigas, for pink jersey holder Franco Pellizotti, and LPR, for Danilo Di Luca, did much of the chasing.

When it started to rain, the odds shifted in the favour of the front five as the slick roads made it harder for the big bunch to close the gap.

It was a lumpy stage with a three-kilometre climb to the finish at Contursi Terme. Before the final climb there was a 25-kilometre stretch of downhill, which also played into the hands of the leaders.

The five worked well together and Millar looked calm and in control. At one stage it was Brit against Brit, with Millar driving the break while Liquigas domestique Charly Wegelius turned himself inside out on the front of the bunch.

Although the lead came down to the two-minute mark it was clear that the leaders would stay away to contest the finish on the climb ? as long as they continued to co-operate.

Eschewing all temptation to jump around the five rode together on the first kilometre and a half of the climb, setting up a tense finale.

The German, Fröhlinger, was first to lose his nerve, attacking around 1.6km from the finish. He was chased down by Pavel Brutt.

Next to go was Francisco Perez. Millar looked confident as he swiftly shut down the Caisse d’Epargne man’s move.

Clearly he sensed Perez and Luis Felipe Laverde were the danger men.

With Laverde looking hesitant, Millar looked set to make his move. With the kilometre banner just in front of him he stood on the pedals as Brutt, who was towards the front of the group began to move.

Then disaster struck and Millar was not slow to show his disgust. Any chance of winning had gone.

Inside the final kilometre, Brutt pressed on and managed to hold off Fröhlinger and Laverde.

Millar finally got a replacement bike and crossed the line around four minutes down. The Giro’s podium announcer called out his name and he got a huge cheer from the crowd.

That, though, was small consolation.

Giro stage fiveStage five scenery

David MillarDavid Millar’s chances of taking the stage were dashed when his chain snapped right before the finish

Pavel BruttPavel Brutt takes the stage

imageItaly’s Franco Pellizotti retains the race lead by one second over Christian Vande Velde

All photos by Graham Watson

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008 STAGE FIVE: RESULTS
1. Pavel Brutt (Rus) Tinkoff 203km in 5hours 4min 52secs
2. Johannes Frohlinger (Ger) Gerolsteiner at 4secs
3. Luis Felipe Laverde (Col) CSF Navigare at 10secs
4. Francisco Perez (Spa) Caisse D’Epargne at 25secs
5. Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step at 31secs
6. Daniele Pietropolli (Ita) LPR
7. Riccardo Ricco (Ita) Saunier Duval
8. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas
9. Jussi Veikkanan (Fin) Francaise des Jeux
10. Alberto Contador (Esp) Astana all same time.
British
103. Geraint Thomas (GB) Barloworld at 3min 3secs
119. David Millar (GB) Slipstream [time TBC]
134. Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas at 5min 22secs
163. Steven Cummings (GB) Barloworld at 13min 27secs
177. Bradley Wiggins (GB) High Road at 16min 3secs
179. Mark Cavendish (GB) High Road at same time.

OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER STAGE FIVE
1. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas in 21hours 46min 49secs
2. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Slipstream at 1sec
3. Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR at 7secs
4. Morris Possoni (Ita) High Road at 8secs
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 8secs
6. Nicki Sorensen (Den) CSC at 17secs
7. Kanstantin Siutsou (Blr) High Road at 18secs
8. Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) LPR at 19secs
9. Andrea Noe (Ita) Liquigas at 22secs
10. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Barloworld at 25secs
British
64. David Millar (GB) Slipstream at 2min 2secs
135. Geraint Thomas (GB) Barloworld at 21min 19secs
145. Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas at 24min 34secs
152. Mark Cavendish (GB) High Road at 26min 50secs
159. Bradley Wiggins (GB) High Road at 29min 16secs
166. Steven Cummings (GB) Barloworld at 31min 14secs

OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE FIVE
1. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: STAGE REPORTS
Stage four: Cavendish wins
Stage three: Bennati romps home
Stage two: Ricco wins Giro d’Italia second stage
Stage one TTT: Slipstream wins Giro team time trial

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: NEWS
Reaction to Cavendish’s Giro stage win
Cav hits back at Pozzato’s snipe
Cavendish: This is my biggest win [stage four]
Millar celebrates Slipstream Giro d’Italia success
Bettini looking for final Giro glory
Astana’s troubled build-up to the Giro
Petacchi banned for Salbutamol positive
Yates and Astana make last minute rush to Giro

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: PHOTOS
Giro d’Italia 2008: Photo gallery. New photos added daily

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: FEATURES
Giro Britannia: how the Brits are doing in Italy
Giro d’Italia 2008 preview
Giro d’Italia 2008: who will win?
Giro d’Italia 2008: The British are coming
Giro d’Italia