Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) won stage four of the Giro d'Italia 2020 in a photo finish on the line ahead of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-Quick-Step).
The sprint saw Sagan launch with just under 200m to go in the middle of the road with Démare on the left. The Slovakian looked to have opened up a gap but Démare quickly gained on him, as did Ballerini on the right of the road.
All three made it to the line with everyone throwing their bikes in a last gasp attempt at the win. A long wait ensued to see who had taken it as it was so close, with the French champion just sneaking it ahead of Sagan.
João Almeida (Decuninck-Quick-Step) retained the overall lead and the pink jersey after finishing the stage safely in the front group. He extended his lead over second place Jonathan Caicedo (EF Pro Cycling) by two seconds after taking bonus seconds on the second intermediate sprint of the stage.
How it happened
After the first summit finish of the 2020 Giro d’Italia, the peloton faced a day of much less climbing on stage three from Catania to Villafranco Tirrena. The 140km stage featured a flat start and flat finish, but separated by the long category three climb of Portella Mandrazzi (12.4km, 5.2 per cent).
Overall favourite Geraint Thomas (Ineos) was the notable non-starter as the peloton rolled out of Catania, with an early break able to get up the road with relative ease.
Those three, Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli), Marco Frapporti (Vini Zabù-KTM), and Kamil Gradek (CCC Team), established a maximum gap of 3-30 on the peloton.
That situation remained until the race hit the only categorised climb, with Bora-Hansgrohe upping the pace with around 74km to go. Their aim to drop as many of the sprinters as possible to maximise Peter Sagan’s chances seemed to be working, with Elia Viviani (Cofidis), Álvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) all dropping on the slopes of Portella Mandrazzi.
Bora’s efforts also put paid to the breakaway’s chances, with the gap to under two minutes as they approached the leading trio approached the final kilometre of the climb. That, as well as king of the mountains points, spurred Pellaud to attack and head out alone with 64km to go, leading over the top of the climb with 1-20 on the bunch.
The Swiss rider led down the descent and held a gap of 1-28 into the final 50km. He still led by a narrow margin to take the maximum three-second time bonus through the intermediate sprint with 26km to go, with race João Almeida and his team-mate Davide Ballerini able to beat Jonathan Caicedo to the next two bonuses, extending the Portuguese’s lead to two seconds in the pink jersey.
By this point Viviani’s chase was complete and he had latched on to the back of the peloton, but Gaviria still trailed behind
With Pellaud finally caught with 23km to go, Bora once again took it up on the front to try and keep the Gaviria group at a distance, sitting at 35 seconds behind as the race approached the final 12km.
Groupama-FDJ and Deceuninck-Quick-Step began contributing to keep Gaviria at bay, with it looking increasingly unlikely that the Colombian would be competing in the sprint. The chase finally relented with 7km to go.
The sprint teams then toed-and-froed on the front of the stretched out bunch heading in towards the finish, but by the final kilometre any lead-outs had disintegrated and things turned into a chaotic fight for space.
Sagan and Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-Up Nation) fought for Arnaud Démare's wheel, with Sagan then launching as the French champion accelerated on the left of the road with around 200m to the line.
Ballerini made his move to the right of the road, but it was Sagan who had the early advantage. As they hit the line it looked like it would be a photo finish between the three of them. Sagan and Démare had thrown their bikes to the line with nothing to separate them on first viewing.
After some waiting, the photo finish showed Démare had just snuck it ahead of Sagan by a tyre to take his second career victory at the Giro d'Italia.
The 2020 Giro continues with stage five on Wednesday, a 225km climbing stage from Mileto to Camigliatello Silano.
Giro d'Italia 2020, stage four: Catania to Villafranco Tirrena (140km)
1. Arnaud Démare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, in 3-22-13
2. Peter Sagan (Slo) Bora-Hansgrohe
3. Davide Ballerini (Ita) Deceuninck-Quick-Step
4. Andrea Vendrame (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale
5. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis
6. Stefano Oldani (Ita) Lotto-Soudal
7. Davide Cimolai (Ita) Israel Start-Up Nation
8. Michael Matthews (Aus) Sunweb
9. Filippo Fiorelli (Ita) Bardian-CSF-Faizanè
10. Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bahrain-McLaren, all at same time
General classification after stage four
1. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
2. Jonathan Caicedo (Ecu) EF Pro Cycling, at 2 seconds
3. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, at 39s
4. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb, at 44s
5. Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at 55s
6. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 57s
7. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) NTT, at 1-01
8. Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-13
9. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 1-15
10. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-17
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Follow on Twitter: @richwindy
Richard is digital editor of Cycling Weekly. Joining the team in 2013, Richard became editor of the website in 2014 and coordinates site content and strategy, leading the news team in coverage of the world's biggest races and working with the tech editor to deliver comprehensive buying guides, reviews, and the latest product news.
An occasional racer, Richard spends most of his time preparing for long-distance touring rides these days, or getting out to the Surrey Hills on the weekend on his Specialized Tarmac SL6 (with an obligatory pub stop of course).
David Millar: Why Mark Cavendish deserves to be at the Tour de France
Cav has bridged generations in a way no one else could, he shows what's possible
By David Millar • Published
Young and talented: Meet the seven Americans racing Le Tour
Young and talented: Meet the seven American bike racers ringing Le Tour de France in 2022.
By Marshall Opel • Published