Germany's John Degenkolb celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the fifth stage of 96th Giro d'Italia.

Matera, Italy – Germany's John Degenkolb of the Argos-Shimano team won a rain-soaked fifth stage of the Giro d'Italia Wednesday, held over 203km from Cosenza to Matera.

Most of the main peloton, including race leader Luca Paolini (Katusha) and main favourite Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky, were held up by several crashes on a dangerous left-hand corner inside the final 1.5km.

However Paolini, who is not a contender for overall victory, and the rest of the peloton benefited from race rules allowing anyone caught up or delayed by crashes inside the final 3km to be given the same time as the winner.

Paolini, 36 years old but only making his Giro debut this year, claimed the race lead with victory on stage three.

He will now wear the jersey for a third full day on Thursday when the peloton tackles the mainly-flat sixth stage over 169 km from Mola di Bari to Margherita di Savoia.

Paolini leads Sergio Henao of Team Sky by 25secs although the real contenders for the race's main prize – Wiggins, Italian Vincenzo Nibali, defending champion Ryder Hesjedal of Canada and Australian Cadel Evans – are not far behind.

Degenkolb, meanwhile, had done well to stay near the front of the peloton as it approached a bend in the road which had been singled out as potentially dangerous.

When a number of riders slid to the ground, it left Marco Canola racing off excitedly on his own hoping to emulate the stage victory of Bardiani teammate Enrico Battaglin on Tuesday.

However the young Italian's bid foundered in the closing 200 metres when Degenkolb dug deep to close the gap.

“It was a hard finish, especially the last kilometre,” said the German.

“It was super fast and then there was the crash. I saw I had a gap and so I had to go full gas for the last 800 metres.

“I was empty when I hit the line but it's great to win.” – Sapa-AFP