Remco Evenepoel concedes maglia rosa on mountainous Giro d'Italia fourth stage
Aurélien Paret-Peintre wins the stage as Andreas Leknessund takes first Norwegian pink jersey since 1975
Remco Evenepoel said that he wanted to give up the pink jersey before today's stage four of the Giro d'Italia, and was true to his word. The coveted tunic rests tonight on the shoulders of Andreas Leknessund, the breakaway rider who became only the second Norwegian rider to wear the jersey in the race's history.
Victory on the mountainous 175km stage from Venosa to Lago Laceno, went to Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Ag2r-Citroën). The Frenchman clung tenaciously to Leknessund's attacks on the final climb of the Colle Molella, and then outgunned him in the sprint with little difficulty.
For all Evenepoel's talk of giving up the jersey – and thus the various pressures that go with it – race fans were left with the distinct impression that the decision was not really his to make, with Leknessund and his breakaway companions going hell for leather at one end and Ineos Grenadiers pulling hard in the bunch behind on the final climb of the Colle Molella.
If Evenepoel and his Soudal-Quick Step team really did want to give up the pink jersey, they may have afforded themselves a small sigh of relief when it transpired that he had indeed been relieved of it to the tune of 28 seconds by Leknessund at the end of the day.
One man's meat is another man's poison, so the saying goes, and Leknessund himself could not, unsurprisingly, have been happier with his new togs.
"It's super special to be in the pink," said the 23-year-old afterwards. "That was the goal before the stage but as everyone knows it's hard, cycling is not so easy… to actually make it, it's unbelievable.
"I went for the stage and I also knew that the pink was possible," he said. "I had one attack where I went all in to drop him [Paret-Peintre], I made it, but then he came back and ah, my legs were hurting so much.
Both Leknessund and Paret-Peintre were part of a hard-fought breakaway which took half the stage to get established, in unseasonably miserable weather in what was the far south of Italy. Come the final climb of the Molella it became clear that the breakaway would win the day, and Leknessund and Paret-Peintre could show their hands. A strong attack from the Norwegian looked like it might have stuck, but Paret-Peintre doggedly regained his wheel, and the pair worked more-or-less together to stay away before each took their own plaudits at the finish.
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After cutting his teeth on local and national newspapers, James began at Cycling Weekly as a sub-editor in 2000 when the current office was literally all fields.
Eventually becoming chief sub-editor, in 2016 he switched to the job of full-time writer, and covers news, racing and features.
A lifelong cyclist and cycling fan, James's racing days (and most of his fitness) are now behind him. But he still rides regularly, both on the road and on the gravelly stuff.
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