Giro D'Italia 2018: Stage 4 - Catania to Caltagirone (202 kms)

Today was the day when the words "Giro D'Italia" began to hold some meaning. Till now it had been Giro D'Israel. So ladies and gentlemen, join me in welcoming the Giro back to Italy.

Though still not back on the Italian mainland, today's day was in the beautiful Italian island, Sicily.
Southern Italy is one of the most beautiful places in the world, but the roads there are the exact opposite.

The riders had to traverse 202 kms, from Catania to Caltagirone, with a total elevation gain of 3330 meters and 2 categorised climbs.

Just look at the elevation profile and try to spot a flat section. With such a course, it was expected that there would be some splits and that some great racing would be witnessed.

The peloton wasn't expected to let a break get away that easily, and that's exactly what happened. It took 25 kilometers for a break to form, including Maglia Azzure wearer Enrico Barbin (Bardiani-CSF), Marco Frapporti (Androni-Giocattoli), Jacopo Mosca (Willier Triestina), Maxim Belkov (Katusha Alpecin; which reminds me I still haven't bought my Alpecin shampoo) and Quentin Jauregui (Ag2R LaMondiale).

Maglia Rosa wearer, Rohan Dennis (BMC) had to ensure not falling too far behind given his slim lead. The break gained 20" on the peloton with 25k of racing done, and swelled up to 2:45 within the next 10k and around 4 minutes with 40k done. BMC and Lotto-Soudal took turns pulling the peloton, keeping the break in check and the lead came down to 3 minutes with 54k done.

As the breakaway hit the 1st Categorised climb of the day at 80k, Barbin made his intentions to stay in the blue clear, as he attacked and none of the men with him responded, allowing him to take the climb and 3 more points in the KOM competition, allowing him to stay in blue for atleast another day.

With 100k done, peloton began to pick the pace, dropping the lead of the break to 1:25. A camera bike crashed, and luckily no one was hurt but it caused the momentum of the peloton to break. The men at the front slowed down too, with a gap of 1:15. As they rolled on, Frapporti took the intermediate sprint, followed by Mosca and Belkov. Sicily's roads were also causing a lot of punctures, causing a small split in the peloton for a while. But that split was quickly recovered because of the motorcycle crash. With the gap stabilised at 2:00, the peloton looked content to let the guys at the front be there for a while. The 2nd intermediate sprint was taken by Mosca, followed by Frapporti.

With 50k to go, Barbin again attacked at the second climb at Vizzini, and carefully outsprinted Frapporti to take the KOM, get the points and shortly thereafter, he rolled back into the peloton. Smart move, he wants to hold the jersey for a long time.

The peloton picked up speed, the finish was a hard, uphill finish with a 14% ramp. Pre stage favourite, Diego Ulissi's UAE Emirates team picked up the pace, and the peloton quickly began to erode the break's lead. Simon Yates (Mitchelton Scott) too made his presence felt, along with Michael Woods (EF Education Drapac). Team Sky's talented Colombian and hopefully future leader, Sergio Henao had a slight mechanical issue but after a quick bike change, he displayed his power catching up with the fast moving peloton.

The break was caught with 13k to go, and with 10k to go Edoardo Zardini (
Willier Triestina) attacked on a incline, followed by Valerio Conti (UAE Emirates). With 9.5k to go, the pair opened up a 15" gap. A rider of Conti's calibre can win a stage from this range and he knew it, as he attacked again, dropping Zardini and pushing impressive power up the hills.

Zardin was engulfed by the Peloton with 8k to go, but up ahead, Conti was pushing like there's no tomorrow, heroically holding a 23" lead. And well, fortune favours the brave. Behind Conti, Andrey Zeits (Astana) crashed into the barrier at a narrow stretch, breaking up the peloton into 2 pieces.
Around 60 riders went through, including Rohan Dennis, Simon Yates, Estaban Chaves, Fabio Aru, Michael Woods, Tom Duomoulin but no Team Sky.

The gap for Conti began to dwindle, down to 8" with 5.3k to go. And then they swept into a sharp right hand tunnel, the picture went black. And as it came back, the time gap began to grow again 10",11",12",13",14",15" with 4.5k to go. Tim Wellens(Lotto FixIt), continued to push behind him and even though Conti's teammate Fabio Aru tried to slow down the peloton, the gap fell and with 3.2k to, all were together.

Lotto and Michelton-Scott continued to push, but more impressively, Rohan Dennis, who Lance Armstrong on his podcast clearly said could be a contender, continued to put up a fight, defending a leader's jersey for the 1st time in his career rather than being a 1 day keeper.

Tosh Van der Sand, Simon Yates, Tim Wellens & impressively enough, Sam Bennett(Bora Hansgrohe) were the 1st 4 men who crossed under the Flame Rouge. But it was still not over. The pack was still not done. George Bennett(Lotto-NL Jumbo) attacked from behind with 300 meters to go, trying to take an early attack, followed by Tim Wellens.

Simon Yates waited a bit too long to attack and even as Bennett began to fade, Woods tried to catch up with Wellens, but Wellens was too strong as he notched his 5th win of this year and took the stage.
Behind him, Rohan Dennis finished with the main pack, putting in a LOT of time on his key rivals, most notably Chris Froome, who is now down over 1 minute.

So, the stage standings were as follows:

And the overall standings:

With some more hills and an uphill finish tomorrow, will there be some more shake ups? Will Tim Wellens take the Maglia Rosa from Rohan Dennis?

All this and more, tomorrow. Thanks for reading!


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