Colombian rider Juan Mauricio Soler?s late bid for the stage victory was thwarted on the line by Danilo Di Luca.
It was not a vintage mountain stage, proving perhaps that the best climbing action comes when the general classification has settled into some kind of order. With more to lose than to gain on this, only the fourth stage, everyone watched and waited until the final three kilometres.
The lead changed hands, as everyone knew it would. Alessandro Petacchi lost contact on the penultimate climb, and Sweden?s young rider Thomas Lovkvist ensured the pink jersey transferred back to the Columbia-Highroad team. His team-mate Mark Cavendish led the race for two days before Petacchi took over.
It means that between them, Columbia-Highroad and LPR have all the stage wins, and all the pink jerseys so far.
Soler, a former winner of the king of the mountains competition at the Tour de France, looked lively on the final 14-kilometre climb to San Martino di Castrozza. Despite a graze on his cheek and bruises suffered in yesterday?s crash, Soler attacked just over five kilometres from the finish.
Although he was reeled in quickly, he had another go with 1.5 kilometres to go. It looked as if Liquigas had it all under control, but Sylvester Szmyd, who had been setting a very good pace on the front, reached his limit and the momentum was lost, giving Soler hope.
He lasted until he was round the final bend and could almost touch the line. Di Luca, the winner of the 2007 Giro, opened up his sprint and got the stage win, with another former champion, Stefano Garzelli, second.
Lance Armstrong was with the front group until the final 500 metres or so, when he went out the back, although his team-mate Levi Leipheimer did finish with the front runners.
It was an interesting early date with the mountains and softened the contenders up for tomorrow?s fifth stage to Alpe di Siusi, which is shorter, but features a tougher summit finish.
Britain?s Ian Stannard was in the six-man break that went clear in the early stages as the ISD team continued to be aggressive.
They had a six-minute lead approaching the second-category Croce d?Aune, when they split up. Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank), Francesco Bellotti (Barloworld) and Francesco De Bonis (Serramenti) pressed on as Serafin Martinez (Xacobeo-Galicia), Davide Vigano (Fuji-Servetto) and Stannard going backwards.
Pink jersey holder Alessandro Petacchi was working for LPR Brakes and his team-mate Danilo Di Luca on the Croce d?Aune, but was dropped before the top and was more than eight minutes down as the reached the final climb
As the final 14-kilometre climb began, Voigt attacked, which shed De Bonis. Voigt and Bellotti pressed on, but all eyes were on the bunch behind.
With eight kilometres to go, Voigt attacked Bellotti and set off alone. Bellotti had not been sharing the work, and when he did go to the front he looked to be suffering, so Voigt clearly felt he would be better off by himself. At that stage the gap was just 1-20 to the peloton.
Everything was still and calm in the main group until Juan Maurio Soler (Barloworld) threw a pebble in the water with an attack.
The Colombian, with a graze on his cheek and bandaged fingers after yesterday?s crash, was shut down quickly by Thomas Lovkvist (Columbia-Highroad). All the big favourites were there, watching, waiting, as they entered the final five kilometres.
Voigt?s lead began to melt away and was just 25 seconds going into the final three kilometres. There hadn?t been much in the way of action in the main group, but it started to stretch out as Liquigas put the pressure on at the front with Szmyd on the front with Ivan Basso on his wheel.
The big German cracked and watched the group stream past him. With both the stage win and the pink jersey up for grabs, it was perhaps not a surprise that no one was willing to play their cards too early and blow their chance.
With about 1.5km to go, Soler had another dig. It looked to be under control until Szmyd peeled off the front of the bunch and the Liquigas momentum was lost. It was left to Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) to take up the chase, but Soler cranked it up again. As the pace lifted again Armstrong was dropped.
As they rounded the last corner, Di Luca and Garzelli were upon Soler to deny him the victory.
Di Luca trails overall by just two seconds.
HOW LPR AND COLUMBIA HAVE DOMINATED
2 Petacchi (LPR)
3 Petacchi (LPR)
4 Di Luca (LPR)
1 Cavendish (Columbia)
2 Cavendish (Columbia)
3 Petacchi (LPR)
4 Lovkvist (Columbia)
Stage four: Padova ? San Martino di Castrozza, 162km
1. Danilo Di Luca (Italy) LPR Brakes in 4-15-04
2. Stefano Garzelli (Italy) Acqua & Sapone
3. Franco Pellizotti (Italy) Liquigas
4. Juan Mauricio Soler (Colombia) Barloworld
5. Gilberto Simoni (Italy) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni
6. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana
7. Thomas Lovkvist (Sweden) Columbia-Highroad
8. Ivan Basso (Italy) Liquigas
9. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank
10. David Arroyo (Spain) Caisse d?Epargne all same time.
35. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 32secs
40. Charly Wegelius (GB) Silence-Lotto at 51secs
48. Chris Froome (GB) Barloworld at 1-31
118. Ian Stannard (GB) ISD at 18-05
150. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-Highroad at 19-50
151. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervelo at 19-50
171. Ben Swift (GB) Katusha at 19-50
187. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 19-50
194. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervelo at 19-50
Overall classification after stage four
1. Thomas Lovkvist (Sweden) Columbia-Highroad
2. Danilo Di Luca (Italy) LPR Brakes at 2sec
3. Michael Rogers (Australia) Columbia-Highroad at 6secs
4. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukraine) Astana at 26secs
5. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana at 26secs
6. Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana 28secs
7. Franco Pellizotti (Italy) Liquigas at 32secs
8. Damiano Cunego (Italy) Lampre at 42secs
9. Marzio Bruseghin (Italy) Lampre at 42secs
10. Carlos Sastre (Spain) Cervelo at 49secs
11. Ivan Basso (Italy) Liquigas at 53secs
30. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 2-03
34. Chris Froome (GB) Barloworld at 2-38
62. Charly Wegelius (GB) Silence-Lotto at 6-07
118. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-Highroad at 21-01
140. Ben Swift (GB) Katusha at 24-06
145. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 24-32
148. Ian Stannard (GB) ISD at 24-37
156. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervelo at 25-32
178. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervelo at 31-41
Bradley Wiggins was first Brit across the line on stage four, coming 35th
Danilo Di Luca wins stage four and moves up to second overall
|Find the pink jersey competition|
Find the jerseys throughout the Giro and you would win a £400 Parker International voucher.
18 pink jerseys will be hidden around the Cycling Weekly and Parker International websites over the course of the three week race – all you have to do is decipher the clues at the end of the stage reports to find them.
Tuesday, May 12. Clue number four:
Cervelo Test Team’s Heinrich Haussler rode one of these bikes to second in Flanders
Today’s jersey is on the Parker International website.
|Giro d’Italia 2009 links|
2009 Giro d’Italia guide and features
2008 Giro d’Italia archive