Would we get sparks or just a spot of smouldering on the slopes of Mount Etna on today’s stage 4 of Giro d’Italia? Jan Polanc was the only one left standing from the day’s four-man break atop Etna at the end of a day which sorted out the contenders. The young Slovenian managed to stay ahead of the fast closing Ilnur Zakarin, while Geraint Thomas was the best of the rest. Bob Jungels seventh place finish, on the same time as Thomas, was enough for him to assume the maglia rosa (and best young rider jersey) from his team-mate Fernando Gaviria.
Rider of the Race
Many of the riders I spoke to in Sardinia were looking forward to today’s stage and a shaking out of the GC. Jan Polanc must not have gotten the memo. He successfully concluded a day-long 179km break where, after being in the company of three other riders, he found himself alone in the lead on the early slopes of Mount Etna. His advantage steadily faded, he started pedalling squares, but he managed to maintain a 19sec gap to heat-seeking red rocket Zakarin. As he soloed across the finish, he was delighted to register his second Giro victory after stage 4’s Abetone in 2015 and takes over the KOM jersey. It’s only the fourth Slovenian victory in the Giro, and he has two of them.
We had a fusillade of riders launching attacks on the slopes of Etna – some serious, most just leg testers – but the favourites weren’t being drawn into battle, save Zakarin who needed to drag back precious seconds. As the cameras switched from the 25-year-old Slovenian at the head of the race, rockin’ and rollin’ over his handlebars as he yearned toward the finish line, to the remaining bunch, all eyeballing one another, you just knew that it was too early for the favourites to open hostilities. That’s not to take anything away from Polanc who managed a real tour de force. Speaking seconds after the stage finish, he said:
It’s amazing. Probably nobody expected the breakaway to succeed. We were only four guys to make it work and we didn’t have a big gap for the last climb. It was probably the hardest day of my life. I’m very happy. To repeat the victory I got in 2015 in the first mountain stage is wonderful.
Pass the Jersey
Those precious, valuable seconds taken by Bob Jungels in Sunday’s final stage in Sardinia, where he helped his Colombian teammate Gaviria to win the sprint and take the leader’s jersey, paid dividends today for the 24-year-old Luxembourg champion. The new race leader said:
I didn’t really believe Fernando Gaviria when he said I’d take the maglia rosa over from him. It’s always a dream but you have to be a bit lucky. The team did a great job. We had to be clever. I would like to keep the jersey for longer than last year but we have a big stage on Sunday at the Blockhaus. It will be more for true climbers like Quintana but I hope to stay in the lead as long as possible.
Only stage four but it’s already been a fantastic Giro for the Quick-Steppers #WaytoRide.
It’s only the seventh time in the Giro’s history (last was 2011), that the first four stages have produced four different stage winners and race leaders.
1 Jan Polanc (UAE-Emirates) 4:55:58
2 Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) +0:19
3 Geraint Thomas (Sky) +0:29
4 Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) same time
5 Dario Cataldo (Quick-Step Floors) s/t
GC Top 5
1 Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) 19:41:56
2 Geraint Thomas (Sky) +0:06
3 Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) +0:10
4 Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) same time
5 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) s/t
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey: Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors)
Points jersey: Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal)
KOM jersey: Jan Polanc (UAE-Emirates)
Best young rider: Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors)
For full review of the stage, go to Cycling News
Header Image: Jan Polanc/Giro d’Italia