When Grand Tour debutant Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Materieux) got himself into the breakaway after a sodden start to Stage 3 the last thing he expected was holding off some of the race’s top sprinters to win four hours later after a remarkable solo effort in a nail-biting finale.
But the 27-year-old Dutchman did just that – riding clear of fellow escapee Simon Pellaud (Androni Giacattoli-Sidermec) inside the final 10km before digging deep into the pain cave to defy the remnants of the chasing pack.
An ecstatic Van der Hoorn crested a final uphill lip on the home straight before putting his hand over his mouth in disbelief after a quick look over his shoulder confirmed the news no doubt bellowing through his race radio: he had done the impossible.
Italy’s Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-Up Nation) led the pack over the line four seconds down ahead of Slovakia’s Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), compatriot Elia Viviani (Cofidis), and his teammate Paddy Bevin from New Zealand.
Race leader Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) finished safely in the pack to retain the pink jersey on the 90th anniversary of the Giro’s iconic maglia rosa. Ganna now leads second-place Tobias Foss by 16 seconds in the general classification after the Norwegian’s Jumbo-Visma teammate Eduardo Affini, in the white jersey, was among the raft of riders tailed off on the hilly run into the finish.
A series of three lower-category climbs and a punchy uphill intermediate ‘sprint’ just 15km from the finish blew the peloton apart while ending the chances for the majority of the breakaway, which at one point held a lead of six minutes over the pack.
Italy’s Vincenzo Albanese (EOLO-Kometa) took maximum points over the three climbs to consolidate his lead in the blue jersey standings after some great support from teammate Samuele Rivi in the move, which also included Alexis Gougeard (Ag2R-Citroen), Samuele Zoccarato (Bardiani-CSF) and Lars van den Berg (Groupama-FDJ).
Pellaud’s Androni Giacattoli teammate Andrii Ponomar – at 18 years old the youngest rider in the Giro since records began following the Second World War – had bridged over to the break shortly after the start at Biella. After testing his legs with a dig on the opening climb, the Ukrainian was the first rider from the break to be dropped.
Ponomar’s yo-yoing off the back was mirrored in the peloton as some fierce pace-setting by Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team resulted in the distancing of sprinters Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma), Calew Ewan (Lotto Soudal), Giacomi Nizzolo (Qhubeka ASSOS) and Sunday’s winner Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix).
Van der Hoorn and Pellaud rode clear of Zoccarato on the rise into Guarene at a point where Bora-Hansgrohe looked all but certain of setting up their former triple world champion for the victory. But as Sagan started to struggle and Bora eased up, Italy’s Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) and France’s Tony Gallopin (Ag2R-Citroen) countered from the pack.
With Pellaud beginning to feel the pinch as the gap edged back above the minute mark following a fast descent, Van der Hoorn kicked clear on the final uncategorised climb inside the final 10km. Behind the two chasers were soon swept up – but with so many sprinters out of the picture, the pursuit was in utter disarray.
Van der Hoorn never gave up as he continued his individual time trial towards Canale, no doubt dying a thousand deaths as the gap slowly came down. A small uphill dig near the finish was not enough to derail his challenge as the debutant delivered the biggest win of his career – and a first Grand Tour stage win for his team, newly promoted to the WorldTour.
Despite dropping out of contention early on, Merlier retained the maglia ciclamino. The Belgian has a 12-point lead over Viviani, who later apologised after swinging an elbow in frustration at compatriot Cimolai after they competed for the scraps following Van der Hoorn’s most unlikely of wins.
Action from CYCLING World Tour GIRO D’ITALIA Stage 4 - Piacenza - Sestola will be live on EUROSPORT and EUROSPORT HD from 15:30 Hrs (03:30 pm IST) onwards on Tuesday , 11th May 2021. The same will be live streamed on discovery+ app.