Five talking points from stage four of the Giro d'Italia 2022

The first mountain stage saw some riders drop out of contention, and some questionable tactics

Giro d'Italia 2022 stage four
(Image credit: Getty Images)

KÄMNA MAKES MOST OF FORM TO DELIVER STAGE VICTORY

Lennard Kamna at the 2022 Giro d'Italia

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s not often that a specific rider is a big pre-stage favourite to triumph on a day expected to be won from a breakaway, especially this early into a Grand Tour, but everything was pointing towards Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) at the Giro d'Italia today. 

The German has clearly been on flying form in the opening few days in Hungary, finishing eighth in the time trial having made a powerful attack in the finale the day before, and has the advantage of not being considered as a GC contender.  

So long as the peloton maintained that perception and were therefore content to let him get into the break, his chances looked good, and indeed he was one of the 14 riders to go clear and gain a big enough gap to contest for the stage win  

Come the final climb of Mount Etna, he took his time to make his move, with first Stefano Oldani (Alpecin-Fenix) and later Juan Pedro López (Trek-Segafredo) going clear ahead of him and the small handful of others still in contention. But once he attacked during the climb’s second half to drop Sylvain Moniquet (Lotto-Soudal) and the lively Mauri Vansevenant (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), and fully committed to chasing López, it was clear he was the quickest climber. 

Although he caught López with 2.6km to spare, the job wasn’t done yet, and Kämna still had to use his sprint to seal the stage — although he was aided by a mistake from Lopez around the final corner.  

Having spent most of last season not racing due to stress, this was a triumphant return for the German in what is his first Grand Tour appearance since the 2020 Tour de France, where he also claimed a stage win. Based on his aggression in these opening few stages, there could be much more to come from him over the rest of this Giro, too.  

A NEW RIDER IN PINK, WHO MAY BE DIFFICULT TO DISLODGE

Juan Pedro López

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Juan Pedro López might have been disappointed not to have claimed what would have been his first-ever Grand Tour win, but did earn the hefty consolation prize of the pink jersey. 

The previous wearer of the jersey Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) was dropped early on Mount Etna, though in truth he had already conceded the jersey a while beforehand by allowing the break to gain so much time.  

Among the riders in the break, López was one of the best poised to inherit the jersey; but not the best, with Mauri Vansevenant instead spending much of the day in virtual pink. López therefore had work to do, and set about it boldly by attacking halfway up the climb, after which nobody saw him again until Kämna caught up 2.6km from the line. 

After that, there’s some uncertainty as to whether or not they made a pact, with López allowing Kämna to win the stage in exchange for his help working tougher to ensure he claimed the pink jersey. The two were seen talking after coming together, which, given the situation, was likely to be about such an agreement. But while Kämna claimed ambiguously that the two had a “silent agreement”, López insisted he was going for the stage win, and certainly sprinted at the end as if he wanted it. 

Whatever the truth is, the outcome is the same, with López taking pink and second on the stage. He has a strong advantage too, with 29 seconds on Kämna in second, 58 seconds on Rein Taaramäe (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), and a substantial 1-42 over the best placed of the top GC contenders, Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco).  

As someone who finished 12th overall at the Vuelta a Espana last year, it will be difficult for anyone to prize the jersey away from López on the climbs. This could be the beginning of a long stint in pink.  

DID INEOS' WORK DAMAGE THEMSELVES MORE THAN THEIR RIVALS?

Ineos Grenadiers at the 2022 Giro d'Italia

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The familiar sight of the Ineos Grenadiers train took control on Mount Etna, and set the pace virtually all the way up in the manner they so often do at Grand Tours.  

However, despite one-by-one using up all their domestiques bar Richie Porte, the group of favourites that reached the line remained a sizable 17-rider strong. 

Among those 17 were most of the expected names, aside from a few high-profile victims (more on them below). João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates), Romain Bardet (DSM), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost) had no problems staying with the pace; Bora-Hansgrohe’s full trident of Wilco Kelderman, Emanuel Buchmann and Jai Hindley were all present; Bahrain-Victorious also had three riders with Mikel Landa, Pello Bilbao and the surprise name Santiago Buitrago; and Simon Yates survived in the group unscathed, despite some worries that he might have hurt his knee in a crash earlier in the stage. 

This wasn’t therefore the major sort out of GC contenders we might have expected it to have been, which begs the question: what exactly did Ineos Grenadiers achieve by setting the pace up the whole climb? 

With no jersey to defend and the stage win out of the question, there was no onus on the to do so much work, and there was no time gained by their leader Richard Carapaz despite a committed sprint at the line. 

In fact, they arguably end the day in a weaker position than they began it, with Pavel Sivakov losing almost a minute after being used up as the penultimate pace-setter after Jhonatan Narvaez and Jonathan Castroviejo had finished their turns. Although Porte finished in the group of favourites as the last man to lead the peloton, having three rather than two riders still up there on GC might have been useful especially considering that Sivakov’s turn at the front didn’t manage to inflict any real damage.  

Still, when it comes to Grand Tours Ineos know what they’re doing, and this was still an impressive — and possibly intimidating — display of strength. Carapaz can be confident that he has a powerful army of support riders ready to back him up these three weeks.  

ASTANA'S WOES CONTINUE

Miguel Angel Lopez at the 2022 Giro d'Italia

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In a season that has so far borne no fruit for Astana-Qazaqstan, the Giro was supposed to be the race where they got back on track. 

Whereas their line-ups for the Classics had looked distinctly underpar, the one assembled for the Giro looked more than competitive, with Miguel Ángel López set to lead in his first Grand Tour since becoming the team’s major new signing for this season, and the quality climber David de la Cruz and Giro legend Vincenzo Nibali making for very strong support riders. 

However, disaster struck early in the day as López abandoned the race. He was seen out the back of the peloton seeking assistance for mysterious reasons, and the worst fears were confirmed later when it was announced that he had abandoned the race, citing a hip injury.  

It’s the third successive Grand Tour the Colombian has abandoned, and the latest mishap in a career that is threatening to peter out just as he should be enjoying his peak years.  

Then, just as the team might have been hastily drafting plan B options, any hope of either De la Cruz or Nibali instead riding for GC were dashed, as the former finished in the grupetto, and the latter was dropped with seven kilometres of Etna still to climb.  

With economic turmoil and revelations that the riders have had their wages delayed, these are bad times for the team, and the atmosphere will only have gotten worse after today. They will now surely turn their attention towards chasing stage wins, but will the riders be motivated enough in these circumstances?  

DUMOULIN DROPS OUT OF GC CONTENTION

Jumbo-Visma

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Although most of the pre-race pink jersey favourites ended the day with their chances unharmed, there was one team along with Astana Qazaqstan who suffered multiple casualties — Jumbo-Visma, who we’re usually so used to seeing dominate Grand Tour mountain top finishes like this.   

There was always a fear that Tom Dumoulin might not have his climbing legs of old, and he was indeed dropped 9km from the top of Mount Etna. Much like at the end of Saturday’s time trial, he cut a dejected figure in the finale, lamenting how he simply did not have the legs despite all the training he had done in preparation for the Giro. 

It’s an unusual time for Dumoulin, who is right back as one of the world’s best time triallists, but has yet to produce a climbing performance of note since returning to racing last June. Now four years since his last Grand Tour podium finish, will we ever see him compete for GC again? 

One rider who is likely to compete for high overall classifications in the future is Dumoulin’s young team-mate Tobias Foss, but that might not be the case this year. The 24-year-old was also dropped on Mount Etna, losing 2-15 to the group of favourites, making a repeat of his ninth-place finish from last year already look difficult  

With Sam Oomen also finishing alongside him, Jumbo-Visma for once don’t look set to be competing for a high GC finish this year, with Gijs Leemreize now their highest ranked rider on GC in 28th at 4-06, having been part of the day’s break. 

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Stephen Puddicombe is a freelance journalist for Cycling Weekly, who regularly contributes to our World Tour racing coverage with race reports, news stories, interviews and features. Outside of cycling, he also enjoys writing about film and TV - but you won't find much of that content embedded into his CW articles.