Egan Bernal came into the Giro d'Italia 2021 as one of the two top favourites for the overall alongside Simon Yates, but the Colombian was unsure about how his lingering back injury would hold up.
Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) has had some worries coming into the race with his back pain that saw him abandon the Tour de France in 2020, but it seems to not be an issue at the Giro after four stages.
The Colombian spoke after the gruelling fourth stage, the first with significant climbing: "I was in no pain and there were no problems. I had the legs to follow when there was an attack. I could also try it myself. I managed to maintain my concentration until the end and I reached my goal in this difficult stage. The team has also worked well."
Ineos Grenadiers came into the race with Bernal down as the main leader but the team said that he would co-lead alongside the Russian, Pavel Sivakov.
Sivakov, though, lost time on stage four to Sestola and now sits around 30 seconds down on Bernal and 2-08 down on the pink jersey of Alessandro De Marchi (Israel Start-Up Nation), alongside De Marchi's team-mate, Dan Martin.
The pre-race favourites really went for it on the final climb on Tuesday with outside favourite and former winner in Sestola, Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) attacking first before being caught by a counter by Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious).
Landa told TuttobiciWeb that after his display on stage four's climbs, Bernal is the current favourite for the race.
"It's still early to draw conclusions, but I think Bernal is the man to beat," Landa said. "Many saw him as their favourite and after this ride, I understand why."
“I don't know if I am one of the big favourites myself, but the feeling was more than good in this stage. That gives me motivation for the mountain stage to Ascoli Piceno."
"It went on and off all day. The bad weather also made the stage very difficult," Landa said after stage four.
"It rained all day and it was very cold. When I looked at my rivals, I saw that some were in trouble, so I gave it a try. After the stage, I can laugh, but I couldn't do that for the last 20 kilometres."
Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) and Hugh Carthy (EF-Nippo) also got involved in the attacking with Vlasov saying that everyone was on their absolute limit.
Vlasov said: "It was a very hard and very cold day. Everyone was on the limit. On the last climb, I had to give everything. I am happy that I was able to stay with the group with the strongest riders."
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