Carapaz a surprise stage winner
We expected an open finish to stage four, given the nature of the finishing climb, which was pitched perfectly between being a finish potentially for sprinters, puncheurs or climbers.
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But few would have predicted Richard Carapaz (Movistar) to be today’s victor. The Ecuadorian benefited from being one of just a dozen-or-so riders left in the front group after a late crash decimated the peloton (more on that below), but also made the savvy decision to open his sprint up early.
That move gave him a big enough gap to hold off the late acceleration from sprinter Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), who had to settle for second, while puncheur Diego Ulissi was only able to convert a great lead-out from his UAE Emirates team-mate Valerio Conti into a third place finish.
For Carapaz, it’s a second career stage victory at the Giro following his success on the Montevergine last year, and a result that more than makes up for the 46 seconds he lost yesterday. Now back up to 1-21 on GC, an overall bid might also be still on the cards.
Dumoulin’s pink jersey bid already seems over
The headline victim of the dramatic crash that occurred in the peloton just over 6km from the finish was Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), whose hopes of winning a second Giro d’Italia title already appear to be over.
The TV cameras spotted him shortly after the incident out the back, in visible discomfort and blood gushing from his red knee. Although upright and still riding, he clearly was in too much pain to ride with committed effort, and eventually reached the finish at a resigned pace over four minutes after the leaders.
It was an unusual sight to see Dumoulin involved in such a serious incident – he’s been a model of consistency at Grand Tours in recent years, having made the top two in each of his last three appearances.
However, nothing has quite gone right for him this season, having failed to find much form in the earlier races of the season, or indeed a single victory.
The question now is whether or not he will continue riding the Giro. The prospect of riding the Tour de France in July and targeting the yellow jersey with fresh legs might be enough to see him go home early regardless of how bad his injuries are, and shift his attention entirely towards July. The Giro’s loss might just be the Tour’s gain.
Primož Roglič strengthens grip on pink
Of the seven riders to make it to the finish in the front group, just one rider was a top ten rider on GC – race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma).
That means the Slovenian extends his lead in the general classification over all of his rivals, and boasts what is already a very healthy advantage.
Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Miguel Ángel López (Astana) all finished in the group behind, but did – unlike Dumoulin – manage to avoid disaster by staying upright. It was a close call though – Nibali was on Salvatore Puccio’s wheel when the Ineos ride fell and caused the ripple effect across the rest of the bunch, with Lopez also nearby, but both thankfully managed to avoid falling.
They remain in second, third and fourth overall, at 35 seconds, 39 seconds and 44 seconds respectively. Hardly insurmountable gaps but, given how strong Roglič looked in the opening time trial, they can ill-afford to lose more much time on seemingly innocuous stages like this.
It’s still early days, but everything is falling Roglič’s way thus far at this Giro.
Points jersey changes hands
Another consequence of the crash was to see significant changes in the battle for the maglia ciclamino.
Points classifications reward consistency, and so missing out altogether on a sprint like today counts as a significant blow to a rider’s aspirations of winning it.
Overnight leader Fernando Gaviria (UAE Emirates) was absent from the lead group, but stage two winner Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) was one of the select few not held up by the crash. Although he failed to win on an uphill finish that didn’t suit his characteristics, his fourth place finish was enough to propel him back into the lead of the points classification.
Meanwhile, Caleb Ewan’s second place was enough to put him back into contention for the jersey, now ranked fifth and 20 points adrift of Ackermann, while winning contesting the sprint in the group behind for a ninth place finish on the stage was enough to see Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) stay just five points behind Ackermann in second place.
Sprinters’ teams forced to work
Today was another long, slow, uneventful stage in excess of 200km, with little on the parcours to get excited about.
Such a lengthy stage meant that the day’s three-man break could build a considerable lead, without ever looking as though it could survive. The gap remained at nearly ten minutes as late as over halfway into the stage, handing Marco Frapporti (Androni-Sidermec) the virtual pink jersey, but with a whole 100km still to ride, there was ample time to be brought back
Still, there was a revealing moment when the sprinters teams that had been riding at the front of the peloton peeled off. That obliged Jumbo-Visma, as the team of the race leader, to take responsibility at the front, but the relaxed pace they set made it pretty clear that there presence at the front was a token gesture, and that they would be happy to see the gap sustained and Primož Roglič’s pink jersey handed over to Frapporti.
If the sprinters teams wanted the breakaway brought back, they’d have to do the donkey work themselves – which they duly did, with representatives from the likes of Ackermann’s Bora-Hansgrohe, Gaviria’s UAE Team Emirates and Démare’s Groupama-FDJ all taking responsibility.
Of course, all this work was ultimately in vain after the crash made such a mess of the finish, and Carapaz surprise everyone to win the stage.
With plenty more potential sprinter stages to come, and Jumbo-Visma unlikely to change their approach, more hard work will have to put in by their domestiques over the coming days.