Arnaud Demare won Stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia in Villafranca Tirrena in a photo finish ahead of Peter Sagan and Davide Ballerini as Joao Almeida extended his pink jersey lead by two bonus seconds.
Villafranca Tirrena (Italy), October 6, 2020– Frenchman Arnaud Demare picked up his eleventh win of the season in a fiercely contested bunch sprint finale on the Sicialian coast ahead of Slovakia’s Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and the Italian Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck Quick-Step).
In a crazy, messy conclusion to Stage 4, Sagan opened up the sprint and looked to have netted a maiden stage win on the Giro – and a first victory in over 15 months – only to be denied by the in-form Demare’s superior lunge.
After a painstaking wait, Demare’s victory was confirmed as Sagan was forced to settle for second place and the maglia ciclamino, which he took from the shoulders of Italian Diego Ulissi.
It was a difficult day for Ulissi’s UAE-Team Emirates after their sprinter Fernando Gaviria was distanced on the day’s major climb at the mid-point of the 140-kilometre stage, the Colombian failing to rejoin the peloton despite a prolonged chase by his teammates.
Italians Ballerini, Andrea Vendrama (AG2R La Mondiale) and Elia Viviani (Cofidis) completed the top five as Portugal’s Joao Almeida (Deceuninck Quick-Step) safely finished in the pack to retain the pink jersey.
Earlier, Almeida had zipped clear to take two bonus seconds in the second intermediate sprint after an entertaining little tussle with Stage 3 winner Jonathan Caicedo (EF Pro Cycling). That saw the youngster open up a bit of daylight between him and the blue jersey of Caicedo, with whom he entered the stage on equal time in the general classification.
The finish was soured by a nasty crash involving two Vini-Zabu riders who were reportedly taken out by barriers that had been blown over by a low-flying race helicopter in the final kilometre. While Dutchman Etienne van Empel was able to complete the stage, Italy’s Luca Wackermann was taken to hospital after the collision.
THREE-MAN BREAK ON A HIDING TO NOTHING
Just moments before the start it was confirmed by Ineos Grenadiers that Geraint Thomas would not take to the start after scans had revealed that the Welshman had broken a bone in his pelvis during his unfortunate crash in the Stage 3 neutral zone.
The short 140km fourth stage from Catania saw three riders ping clear from the gun with Poland’s Kamil Gradek (CCC Team), Italy’s Marco Frapporti (Vini-Zabu KTM) and Switzerland’s Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli–Sidermec) building up a maximum lead of just over four minutes on the peloton.
Frapporti led the break through the first intermediate sprint while, behind, Fernando Gaviria drew first blood among the sprinters after the Colombian edged out Michael Matthews, Peter Sagan and Stage 2 winner Diego Ulissi.
It was to prove the pinnacle of Gaviria’s day, the UAE-Team Emirates sprinter along a raft of riders dropped on the long and gradual ascent of Portella Mandrazzi after Sagan’s Bora team turned the screw on the third-category climb with more than 70km still remaining.
Pellaud skipped clear of his fellow escapees near the misty summit as their advantage was whittled down to a minute, the lone Swiss rider stretching his lead on the descent as rain started to fall heavily on the race.
With Gradek and Frapporti swallowed up, Pellaud just held on to take the second intermediate sprint with 25km remaining before succumbing to the inevitable.
Despite a spirited effort from Ecuador’s Jonathan Caicedo, Joao Almeida darted clear to mop up second place and two bonus seconds in the sprint ahead of his Deceuninck Quick-Step teammate Davide Ballerini.
By now a chase group containing Elia Viviani had managed to rejoin the peloton, but while the Cofidis sprinter – still in search of his first win of the season – had time to rest his legs ahead of the finish, there was to be no place for Gaviria.
UAE-Team Emirates gave up the chase with 5km remaining, with the gap still above the 30-second mark and the teams of the sprinters chomping at the bit on the front of the rampaging peloton.
Australia’s Miles Scotson (Groupama-FDJ) pulled off an unorthodox move by riding clear of the pack out of a tight left-hand bend inside the final kilometre as the race swung onto the coast.
But Scotson’s cameo came to an end with the finish line in sight as Sagan led out the sprint – only to finish second for the second time on the fourth day of his debut Giro after the narrowest of photo finishes.
Sagan’s consolation came in the form of the maglia ciclamino, the former triple world champion now holding a five-point lead over the stage winner Demare as Ulissi dropped to third.
In the nascent battle for pink, Almeida’s intermediate sprint coup saw the 22-year-old Grand Tour debutant open up a two-second gap between him and Ecuador’s Caicedo, with Spanish veteran Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren) still in third at 39 seconds.
The Giro d’Italia crosses to mainland Italy on Wednesday for the lumpy 225km Stage 5 from Mileto to Camigliatello Silano in the region of Calabria in southern Italy.
Exclusive finish line quote: Jacopo Guarnieri (Groupama–FDJ) speaking to Eurosport and GCN after leading out teammate Arnoud Démare to beat Sagan in a photo finish on stage four:
“The gap really wasn’t what we were planning to do. We had rain on the road and the surface wasn’t great. There was a little bit of a gap but everybody did really well in their role today. When Sagan went first, we had an agreement to leave a space for a chance to launch a sprint, so it wasn’t worrying when he went. Arnoud Démare knew exactly what he had to do.”
All the action from GIRO D’ITALIA Stage 5 Mileto - Camigliatello Silano will be LIVE on Eurosport and Eurosport HD from 4:00 PM IST onward on October 7, 2020.