By Jonny Long
Filippo Ganna took his and Ineos Grenadiers' first victory of the season on stage four of Étoile de Bessèges.
The Time Trial World Champion won from the breakaway, having got himself into the day's move up the road, before outlasting his collaborators and keeping the peloton at bay in the final few kilometres, solo-ing away to victory.
Stage one winner Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) led the peloton across the line in second place, 17 seconds after Ganna, with Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) taking third.
Lotto-Soudal's Tim Wellens maintains his 44-second lead over Belgian compatriot Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) in the general classification with just tomorrow's stage five time trial in Alès remaining.
Ganna had been part of a five-man breakaway consisting of Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Alexys Brunel (Groupama-FDJ), Ludovic Robeet (Bingoal - Wallonie Bruxelles) and Belgian road race champion Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix), the quintet achieving a gap of four minutes at one stage.
As Lotto-Soudal began the chase, Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-Nippo), Pierre Latour (Total Direct Energie) and Anthony Turgis (Total Direct Energie) jumped across in the last 20km as the gap became bridge-able, and then as Bora-Hansgrohe and AG2r Citroën turned the screw the escapees were quickly brought to heel in the final 10km.
Except for Ganna, though, who used his abilities against the clock to jump away from the doomed move and wrap up a first win of the new season.
Etoile de Bessèges, stage four: Rousson to Saint-Siffret (152km)
1. Filippo Ganna (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers, in 3-22-57
2. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, at 17 seconds
3. Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at same time
4. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Ag2r Citroen
5. Milan Menten (Bel) Bingoal - Wallonie Bruxelles
6. Bryan Coquard (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
7. Cyril Barthe (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
8. Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
9. August Jensen (Nor) DELKO
10. Mads Würtz Schmidt (Den) Israel Start-Up Nation, all at same time
General classification after stage four
1. Tim Wellens (BEL) Lotto-Soudal, in 13-40-54
2. Edward Theuns (BEL) Trek-Segafredo, at 44 seconds
3. Mads Würtz Schmidt (DEN) Israel Start-Up Nation, at 46s
4. Michał Kwiatkowski (POL) Ineos Grenadiers, at 48s
5. Philippe Gilbert (BEL) Lotto-Soudal, at 49s
6. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL) Ag2r-Citroën, at 50s
7. Jake Stewart (GBR) Groupama-FDJ, at same time
8. Cyril Barthe (FRA) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept
9. Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
10. Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Intermarché - Wanty Gobert Matériaux, all at same time
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