Giro d’Italia Stage 4 Preview

A hard stage in tough weather, today’s stage features several tough climbs to reshape the overall classification.

Hoorn solo: a breakaway with the wildcard invitees that vibed doomed move but for once it stuck and Intermarché-Wanty’s Taco van der Hoorn won from it, a win to rekindle the hope of all those who stand on the pedals every time the flag goes down at the start of the stage. The breakaway of eight riders shrank to two by the climb to Guarane as Simon Pellaud and van der Hoorn went clear. They’d get caught, right? Only they still had a useful lead of a minute with 15km to go, the roads were twisting and few teams could chase on the descent. Van der Hoorn went solo with 8km left, it looked risky but in ditching Pellaud he only had his legs and the road ahead to worry about. Behind Bora-Hansgrohe had worked all day to chase and when UAE Emirates and Cofidis joined it was too late. This was the victory of an underdog and more, a modest team yet to win this year and a rider who was only signed late last year after Jumbo-Visma didn’t renew and nobody else had hired him following several seasons blighted by big injuries, he was going to ride for the BEAT Cycling in cycling’s third tier before Wanty called. Even van der Hoorn looked like he didn’t believe it as he looked the finish arch looming over him.

The Route: into the Apennines and over 3,000m of vertical gain. It’s not an Alpine day but it needn’t be for a first Tuesday in a grand tour. But all that climbing is concentrated in the last 100km and on hard roads that rise and fall, twist and turn as the race heads into Parmigiano Reggiano country.

Things get serious with 77km to go and the freshly-resurfaced climb to the ruins of the Castello di Carpineti, it’s got tight hairpins and is over 10% for the last two kilometres and chased by a fast descent down the valley. The next climb to Montemolino has a gentle start but later on flicks on to a tertiary road behind Palagano with some very steep S-bends.

There are many ramps and among them two big unmarked climbs, presumably RCS didn’t want to offer too many mountains points too soon on one day but Mocogno and then especially Montecreto go uphill via hairpin bends and are significant climbs that add to the vertical gain in the finish.

The Finish: a fast descent through Sestola into Fanano with some tight bends lined with barriers. Teams will fight for position and team cars will burn rubber to stay in contact and in town there’s an uphill intermediate sprint with 3-2-1 seconds.

Then it’s on to the climb to the Colle Passerino. It is 4.3km at 10% and at first a regular road out of town but starts to bite quickly.  A rider 20 places back here will have to make a big effort just to move up and it’s the first uphill test of the GC riders. At the top of the pass it’s onto a bigger road and a fast descent into town with a small kick up to the triangolo rosso and then a run through town.

The Contenders: can a breakaway make it? We don’t have the obvious ingredients like a climb at the start, nor are lots of riders down and out on GC although Simon Carr (EF Education-Nippo), Felix Großschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) lost 10 minutes yesterday but they’ll have their work cut out to get into a move and then help keep it away.

The Passerino climb is steep but not a summit finish and it’ll be hard to go solo over the top and stay away. So who can win from a group in Sestola? João Almeida, Fausto Masnada and Remco Evenpoel and that’s just from Deceuninck-Quickstep. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain) has a fast finish too. Simon Yates (Bike Exchange) might win solo often but can be a clever finisher too. Dan Martin (Israel) can be quick too and if he attacks doesn’t have to be closed down immediately. A hilly course and bad weather, a good day for Marc Soler (Movistar). Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) has won in Sestola before but that was in his Bardiani days from a breakaway, winning against the names cited so far is a much bigger ask even if he’s improved plenty since.

João Almeida, Remco Evenepoel, Pello Bilbao
Yates, Masnada, Großschartner, Martin, Ciccone, Soler, Guerreiro

Weather: cold and wet, a top temperature of 12°C and some wind from the south gusting to 30km/h.

TV: a start at 12.20pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. If you want all the hard hills, tune in from 3.00pm onwards for Carpineti.

49 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia Stage 4 Preview”

    • For sure! I gave Taco (ya gotta love that) zero chance to stay away but as he got closer to the finish I started rooting for him. My legs hurt just watching.
      Weather forecast sounds like yesterday’s – rain at the start but drying up as things progress.
      Today’s route reminds me of a truck-stop find we made years ago, a tiny place call La Formica (The Ant) during a loop ride out of Sestola. When we map these routes we never know exactly where we’ll be at midday the first time we have clients cycling on them so pranzo is quite often a crapshoot…but we’ve gotten good at rolling the dice over the years and this was no exception. Trucks parked all over the place, half blocking the narrow road. If you’ve ever seen Trattoria dei Camionista on Italian TV, you know the kind of place. This being Emilia-Romagna you know the pasta’s gonna be made with eggs..and just enough flour to stick ’em together. The tortellini just kept coming, each platter with a different filling and perfect sauce to match. 🙂

      • Today’s ride is probably the culinary stage of the Giro, the hills behind Parma and Modena supply so many Italian dishes. Along the route there are a lot of latterie (dairies) that sell parmesan cheese but inside they usually have lots of other local food, including things you can eat during a ride like chestnut cakes.

        • Agreed! Emilia-Romagna’s cooking is probably the best across the range (antipasti, primi, secondi, etc.) of any in Italy. Piedmont’s antipasti and primi are great but they’re not quite at the same level with second plates. E-R’s only letdown (if it can be described as one) is the range of wines made there don’t hold a candle to Piedmont or Tuscany as just two examples 🙁

    • It really was. It’s the kind of stage that I wish was more widely seen by non-fanatics. The scenery, the implausible result, the pain and elation on van der hoorn’s face, all a tremendous advert for the sport. In the UK I was able to watch it free-to-air on the Welsh language channel S4C, albeit the final 2 hours of the stage only. I know very little Welsh (some of the numbers and that’s it!) but I could just about follow the action. However, it really would be a feather in the cap of ITV to add the giro to their programming.

      I’m firmly opposed to sports being locked away on pay TV (it’s incredibly damaging and self defeating, always a short term financial “coup”) so any moves in the opposite direction must be encouraged.

      • I do recommend a GCN+ subscription (and not just because I know someone who works there). I think I got a half-price deal of £20 a couple of months ago, but even the full price £40 for the whole season is very good. (Sadly everybody’s favourite commentator, Carlton K, doesn’t seem to be doing the Giro this year.)

          • Instead it is Rob “press the mute button” Hatch with his grating pronunciation of rider’s names in a phony foreign accent.

          • I think that’s unfair to Rob. As far as I can tell, in addition to English, he speaks Italian, French and Spanish fluently and in fact has often been seen interviewing riders in these languages. He therefore pronounces the names correctly rather than anglicizing them which sometimes sounds incongruent in the middle of an English language sentence but I don’t think there’s anything phoney about it.

            He’s also clearly very enthusiastic about cycling and knows what’s going on (unlike Mr Kirby). I’m a big advocate of his commentating.

          • GCN+ has been like a breath of fresh air living here in Australia. It is such a joy to be able to view races that we have never had access to before. I find it incredibly churlish to read the critics who love to deride the commentators and cannot see past their own prejudices. The fact that Rob Hatch is able to correctly pronounce names is such an enviable ability. The arrogance of English speakers who think that their pronunciation is superior is narrow and blind. He says to do otherwise is lazy journalism, exactly right!

        • I’m sure GCN+ is a great product but that’s not the point I’m making. I think the Sky F1, cricket and rugby coverage is excellent too (what I’ve seen of it) – but it does nothing to introduce new fans to the sport. In fact, it’s utterly obstructive to new fans – it’s a closed shop. A stage like yesterday’s needs to be seen and it’s a real shame if it’s behind a paywall.

          The fact the highlights are on Quest (which is free to air) is a good step but you really have to know it’s on. You might argue ITV4 is not a mainstream channel either, but given it shows various other sports, I’m certain it would attract more casual fans than Quest.

          • My father-in-law in CA loves to watch TdF on TV, mostly for the scenery. He asks about Il Giro and I have to tell him he’s gotta PAY to watch it! He already pays a small fortune for his various TV cable packages and is not about to pony up another dime for cycling’s #2 Grand Tour even if the scenery is better and he’s more familiar with it 🙁

      • Eurosport highlights are shown on for free in the UK on Quest (Freeview channel 12) at 7pm If you miss them you can watch later for free on the the Discovery+ app.

  1. Good to have a victory by a less heralded rider from a less heralded team. It illustrated the point made a few days ago about “who chases”, for much of the time it was only Bora and they ran out of puff in the end. It suited Ineos to let the break go and DQS didnt want to waste energy.

    I wonder if the same might apply today, Ineos would be clearly happy to pass the jersey onto a breakaway team maybe we will see DQS on “policing duties” in the hope of ensuring a weak break. The sprinters and their (small) leadouts will be huddling from the rain in the grupetto as soon as the road goes up. A break does have a chance, especially with the likely weather, if the GC teams decide not to expend energy chasing early seconds. If it does come down to a “GC” sprint Remco Evenepoel seems to be a good shout, he seems to be wanting to show off his prowess which has been noticed by the other riders.

    • Agree, those who want to win the Giro outright don’t really want to take the race lead today (or if they do they’ll want to lend the jersey to someone else soon) so the break has a chance, the big teams won’t chase from the start… but will probably ride the last part very fast although they’ll all look to Ineos. Astana’s Martinelli was talking about “changing the race” but they’ll just want to shepherd Vlasov rather than shred the race.

      I can’t list every rider for every scenario in the chainrings above but riders like Valerio Conti, Gianluca Brambilla, Ruben Guerreiro or Atilla Valter come to mind if they can get in a move that can stay away but it’s risky, no teams will want to gift them much just in case.

      • Here’s an interesting situation: “There are the four riders sanctioned so far by the jury for throwing water bottles and rubbish on illegal stretches of road. For all of them a fine of 500 Swiss francs, 25 penalty points in the UCI ranking and… the certainty of being excluded from the race at the next sanction. A big problem especially for Joao Almedia who is already one of the most serious contenders for the pink jersey.”

        • Tuttobici are almost there, but they’ve not quoted the rule correctly. Almeida won’t be excluded from the race but he is now on warning for a 1 minute time penalty if he does it again.

          • How have they not learned yet? For a GC rider, a one minute time penalty would be a disaster. One accidental drop, or whatever, and Almeida loses big time – and it’s all extra stress that he now has to worry about.
            If you’re a GC contender and you really can’t stand to keep your bidon/litter, give it to a domestique. Even if they then throw it away, it doesn’t matter if they lose a minute.

            (Accidents shouldn’t happen as long as riders continue to lob the bottles quite far, even if there are more bottles in a concentrated area.)

        • The footage of the peloton passing through one of the waste zones looked like an explosion in a bottle factory, an accident in waiting?

          • Riders are probably expecting bottles so hopefully more predictable than the old way of chucking them any where, every where.

            Almeida no longer under the threat of a time penalty BTW, it wasn’t him littering apparently.

    • The way Remco is riding so aggressively sounds like a sure fire way to do a Yates and flatter in 3rd. I suppose the hope is gaining enough of a lead that a flatter won’t matter. I suppose he has the added benefit of being a descent TTer.

      On the other hand, from a PR prospective, Romero done a Yates wouldn’t be such a disaster for Don Patrick. There will be plenty of talking, the later redeeming win would be so much the sweeter.

  2. Given Evenpoel’s lack of racing and possible resulting weakness over three weeks, he might be better to hide in the bunch, keep his powder dry and save energy for the later stages rather than show off his strength and confidence now. Sound strategy says do enough but not a drop more – though if all the riders do that it won’t make for exciting racing.

    Like our host I was surprised to see Carr, a supposed climber, drop over nine minutes. I had him down for a promising top twenty on GC. Not now. Was he caught out in a split or was it, as IR hints, a deliberate ploy to obtain freedom?

    • Some may argue going out in a pop Yates style might be preferable to a stealth top 10 or even top 5. Especially when you have a five year contract and doesn’t need to worry about points.

  3. Almeida hasn’t won a race yet as a pro, has he? Seems odd in those circumstances to rate him higher than proven winners like Yates and Dan Martin?

    I also get the sense that amongst the Quick Step riders, Evenepoel is straining at the leash – which isn’t to say that he can win after three weeks, but could have an explosive first week.

    • “Pello Bilbao (Bahrain) has a fast finish too”… Landa is good for a long summit finish but even here he hasn’t won for a long time. In a downhill run into town and a sprint among a few riders, normally Bilbao is quicker, and if he attacks on the descent rivals might hesitate, he doesn’t have to be closed down instantly.

  4. Absolutely brilliant!
    And maybe more riders will try to form larger breakaways – if you have eight riders in your group, you’re less knackered at the end. Don’t let the peloton decide – or at least make them chase.
    However, I doubt many will be as strong as Taco: he was awesomely strong once he dropped Pellaud. Some are blaming the peloton, and they did make mistakes, but they couldn’t have expected him to be that strong after that many km in the break – they caught the rest pretty easily. Credit where credit’s due – he was immense.

  5. I noticed yesterday that there was a lot of new patches and lengths of tarmac on the roads, which is good. But they renew the white lines and, boy, what a difference in terms of a hazard for falling on wet descents. It was just something that struck me watching the cracked, threadbare white paint turn to thick, luscious new coating.
    What a feel good Giro so far; the crowds, Top Ganna, Merlier earlier and now Taco finally emerging from his shell. 😃
    Sorry I just can’t resist 😃

    • In some parts of Italy you can trace the Giro route by following the fresh tarmac and pristine white lines. The only time the roads get a new surface is shortly before the race comes through.

      • This is very true for the Tour de France as well. I rode the hilly part of today’s stage and there’s fresh tarmac along the way but plenty of the roads are still like the surface of an old oil painting. With so many riders on 25, 26 or even 28mm tire it’s not so bad compared to a decade ago. The fresh tarmac’s nice in the dry… but can have that oily feel too in the rain.

        • And it’s even worse if it’s been a warm day before it rains, as you get lots of the oils rising to the surface and then getting cooled once they are on the wet surface. Some might remember the crashes during the Rio 2016 road race where that happened on the two runs down the descent.

          The nicest surface I’ve ever ridden on was a brand new FIA certified race track when the tarmac was still curing and not yet allowed to have cars drive on it.

      • For sure! Back-in-the-day we were laying our routes out and would come to a bad stretch of pavement we’d look at each other and say, “The Giro needs to come here!’ because we knew the asphalt would get redone for La Corsa Rosa. Sadly, the economic crisis cut budgets so badly that’s not so much the case anymore…but at some point the Giro’s not going to use those roads so they’ve got to find the euros somewhere for new pavement.

  6. Fantastic effort of Taco van der Hoorn yesterday – and it was a inrng tweet that had me rushing to the tv to see the final…
    Is the first Giro (or GT) without any major crashes in the field in the first few days?

  7. May I comment about TV coverage?
    Eurosport trumpeted Europe wide coverage. Wonderful I thought – I live in France and subscribe to the 2 tv channels Eurosport1 and Eurosport2.
    Imagine my surprise when I discover that the Giro is on neither of these channels, but it is on for – you guessed it – an additional fee. Or GCN race pass – for an additional fee.
    Never mind I shrug, because although my Italian is poor I also RAI2 on my (official and paid for) channels list, and, of course, the race is live on RAI2. But during the race my screen went black. Clearly Eurosport has had it geo-blocked.
    Since I’ve already paid my Eurosport subscription, you may imagine that I have no scruples in watching the race on….ahem…a certain internet feed.

    • Eurosport is free to air in some countries like Germany and part of subscription cable/satellite packages in other countries. But parent company Discovery is going to launch its own streaming service soon in Europe and a component of this is a “Netflix for sports” so it’s trying to push some people to hop over the paywall already.

      As you suggest it’s a concern if mass events like the Giro go behind a paywall – a hard core of fans, like people who read cycling blogs, will probably still watch but less so more generalist household viewers. Because you have to go and find the race rather than having it pumped into your TV for free less people know about it. It’ll have effects on team sponsors, participation etc, we’ll see.

  8. Is Colle Passerino another pleonasm? Or are the terms false friends? Sounds like the “little pass of glue” to me.

    To you foodies: has the Reggiano region recovered from the earthquake that clobbered so many of the cheese factories? I recall images of masses of cheese wheels collapsed all about.

    In addition to the noteworthy food, the region of today’s route is home to Reggio Emilia, home of one of the most interesting approaches to education on earth.

  9. Couldn’t be happier for Joe Dombrowski today. He clearly loves the Giro and it’s nice to see him get his first European victory there. I had the good fortune to chat with Joe for a few minutes at a Gran Fondo in Virginia a few years ago and was surprised/impressed by how down-to-earth he is. Super nice guy. Forza Joe!

  10. Way off topic: Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit suspended trainer Bob Baffert keeps coming with the same old bike racer doping denials. Today using LA’s blame the positive on some oinment!
    Back to biking: Dombrowski won today!

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