That was a great Giro d’Italia stage
Stages like this are why we love the Giro d’Italia. On paper it looked pretty straightforward – two category three climbs near the halfway mark and a few lumps before the finish line.
But some of those lumps proved to be incredibly tough – especially the final climb just outside Praia a Mare, which averaged 7.7 per cent for over a kilometer but had two kicks up that really set the climbers apart.
But even then, some of the best climbers, like Mikel Landa, were struggling a bit with the pace and the steep gradients as the peloton split apart.
The Tour de France is often regarded as the most popular Grand Tour, but you’d rarely see such a challengingly hilly stage this early in the race, and that’s where the Giro and Vuelta a España set themselves apart.
Lampre-Merida’s season is now a success
Lampre-Merida have their Giro d’Italia stage win and now their season is pretty much complete.
The Italian team are never one of the most prolific teams in the peloton, but you can always rely on them to notch up a Giro stage or two. Indeed last year they won three of them.
Diego Ulissi has made a career of getting Giro wins, picking up at least one in each of the last three seasons and winning five in total.
His attack on stage four the most explosive we’ve ever seen, but he did more than enough to distance his rivals and stay away in the final kilometres.
It was one of those exciting stages where you always expected him to be caught but he refused to give in and crossed the line five seconds ahead of the pack.
Nippo-Vini Fantini’s banzai tactics
A four-man breakaway group got up the road in the early stages of stage four, but Italian breakaway stalwarts Nippo-Vini Fantini missed the move.
As if a punishment for not getting in the split, the team’s coaches ordered the boys in orange to the front of the peloton where they turned themselves inside out to reduce the gap to as little as nine seconds at one point.
But despite doing all that work on the front they still couldn’t get a man across the gap to the break and the four lads from earlier in the day extended their lead once more.
Nippo-Vini Fantini paid for their efforts as well, with Damiano Cunego their best finisher in 51st, over a minute down on the winner.
Marcel Kittel had no hope of keeping the pink jersey
But it was no surprise to see the maglia rosa going backwards when the roads pointed upwards.
Kittel has made it clear that he’s not here to ride for the classification, so there was no real incentive for him to empty the tank to keep hold of the jersey and jeopardise his chances in future sprint stages.
He might have a chance of the win on stage five, with a relatively easy finish in Benevento, which would be a great way to celebrate his 28th birthday.
“Kittel is back to his best form”
The cream is rising to the top of the general classification
We thought before the stage that Tom Dumoulin could get his race lead back, but the toughness of the stage saw all the big names come to the fore in the closing stage, with the top 10 overall now littered with GC contenders.
Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) attacked on the last climb to no avail, but it forced the others follow his lead. Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) was there; Mikel Landa (Team Sky) almost missed the split, but made it back.
Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) was up there at the end, and of course Dumoulin. How long he’ll hold on to the maglia rosa is yet to be seen.
With a summit finish coming up on Thursday one of the big names may want to send out an early message and take it off him. If he holds on in the first mountain test he could hold pink until deep into the second week, especially with a time trial to come on stage nine.