Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) booked himself in to a second stint in pink at the 2016 Giro d’Italia after finishing second behind stage winner Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) on a hard fought fourth day of the race.
Ulissi was able to exploit the difficult closing climbs of the 200km course to attack the 11-man breakaway group he made it into shortly after passing the 30km to go mark.
Despite holding a slender advantage of less than 20 seconds, the break, which had formed after Ag2r pair Axel Dumont and Guillaume Bonnafond had attacked, made it to the final climb of Via del Fortino with around 10km remaining.
Italian Ulissi, after some hard work from his teammate Valerio Conti, attacked on the climb which hit 18% gradients, and went solo over the top with an 8km slog ahead of him to hold off the chasing peloton.
The main bunch quickly hoovered up the former breakaway riders on the climb, and the pace increased franticly on the run into the line, with GC contenders struggling to hold on to the main pack. 2012 Giro d’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal (Trek-Segafredo) was the biggest casualty of the day, as he lost around 30 seconds on his rivals.
While Ulissi was able to hold onto a 10 second advantage to the line in Praia a Mare to take the victory, his fifth career win at the race, Dumoulin was able to break off the front of the main bunch on the final run-in with fellow Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk to finish second on the day and put him back into the overall lead.
Dumoulin had taken control of the maglia rosa after the stage one time trial, but had relinquished it to sprinter Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step), who was unable to stick with the peloton over the difficult parcours of the stage four course.
The day’s main break got away early in the day, but the quartet of Nicola Boem (Bardiani-CSF), Matej Mohoric (Lampre-Merida), Matthias Brändle (IAM) and Joey Rosskopf (BMC) never really got much more than three minutes on the peloton.
They were caught with 52km to go on the slopes of the San Pietro climb, where Kittel was first dropped with his group slipping over a minute back behind the peloton, but caught back on on the descent.
Kittel was dropped again with 14km to go on penultimate climb as Lampre-Merida pushed on in the break group to set-up Ulissi for his win.
The fifth day of the Giro d’Italia sees the riders navigate a 233km course from Praia a Mare to Benevento with one categorised climb early on. Undulating terrain from then on will test the riders, with a tricky drag to the finish likely to hamper some sprinters.
Giro d’Italia stage four, Catanzaro – Praia a Mare (200km)
1. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida, in 4-46-51
2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin, at 5 secs
3. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, same time
4. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 6s
5. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx-Quick Step
6. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana
7. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha
8. Matteo Busato (Ita) Wilier-Southeast
9. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge
10. Nicolas Roche (Ire) Team Sky, all same time
Overall standings after stage four
1. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin, in 14-00-09
2. Bob Jungels (Lux) Etixx-Quick Step, at 20s
3. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida, st
4. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 24s
5. Georg Preidler (Aus) Giant-Alepcin, st
6. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, at 26s
7. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 31s
8. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 35s
9. Nicolas Roche (Ire) Team Sky, at 37s
10. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge, st