Davide Formolo has arrived. The young Cannondale-Garmin climber notched his first professional win on Tuesday in La Spezia.
Stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia’s was a hot day, punctuated by three category 3 climbs over the course of 150km. The baby-faced Italian made a canny attack out of the day’s breakaway, before the final climb, about 15 kilometers from the finish and rode alone to victory.
“Today we went full gas; we did the first climb at good power,” said Formolo. “I was in the first group. Luckily we had Roman [Kreuziger] in the first group, so Tinkoff would not work. I tried to break away in the second-to-last climb. … I tried again in the last climb, and luckily I could stay away … Amazing.
“Today was my day, luckily.”
Behind, a large group of chasers sprinted for bonus seconds and a chance to wear the pink leader’s jersey.
Orica-GreenEdge succeeded in keeping the overall race lead within its camp as Simon Clarke sprinted to second, taking the pink jersey from his teammate Michael Matthews, who was dropped earlier in the stage. Yonathan Monsalve (Southeast) finished third. Clarke had been dropped on the final climb but tenaciously chased back to the group and delivered a strong sprint at the end.
“You saw the emotion crossing the line,” Clarke said. “I was just stoked to keep the jersey in the team. I knew Cannondale [Formolo] was still up the road, I just couldn’t hold the emotion in.
“It was a beautiful day on the bike for me. It was a real war out there. I really had to work hard on that last climb to regain contact with the first group. It’s an incredible sensation to have the maglia rosa. … One of the best days in my career.”
Another Orica rider, Esteban Chaves is second overall, and Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) is third overall, 17 seconds back.
The early breakaway included Formolo, Andrey Amador (Movistar), Amaël Moinard (BMC), Maxime Monfort (Lotto-Soudal), Andrey Zeits (Astana), and Salvatore Puccio (Sky).
A seven-rider chase, including Kreuziger, came across to the leaders over the top of the penultimate categorized climb, forming a large group on the front.
With about 35 kilometers left, the breakaway was 6:35 ahead of the peloton, which included most GC favorites. But Astana was working hard at the front of the field to bring back the break.
The gap was soon down to 3:20 when the peloton saw 30km to go.
Astana continued to chase, showing confidence both in team leader Fabio Aru and Zeits, who had infiltrated the breakaway. It also aimed to put pressure on other GC favorites, who were relatively isolated in the small peloton.
With 15km to go, the gap was down to 1:40.
Losing patience with the break, Formolo attacked just inside of 14km to go, prior to the day’s last categorized climb.
Moinard and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) went clear of the break at the base of the Biassa climb, giving chase with Formolo ahead.
Formolo rode over the top of the category 3 climb with 10 kilometers left, holding a lead of about 30 seconds over the two chasers.
Behind that duo, a small group of about 15 riders rode the final descent, another 10 seconds back. Aru, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), and Sky’s Richie Porte were the major GC favorites in the primary chase group. Etixx-Quick-Step’s Rigoberto Urán had missed the move. He went on to lose 42 seconds to the front group at the end of the stage.
As the large group of chasers caught Moinard and Visconti, the gap to the lone leader was 33 seconds with 4.3km to go.
The 22-year-old Italian clung to a lead of 30 seconds with two kilometers left on the flat run-in to the finish, but that was all he needed.
Formolo rode alone into La Spezia, winning the stage with the chasers just barely in sight at the end of a stage that Aru characterized as, “a ridiculously hard stage.”
“I just wanted to try my luck,” Formolo said. “I wasn’t sure if I would have the legs to go all the way. It’s tremendous to win here today. It brings strong satisfaction. You must risk something to have a chance to win. This is the happiest day of my life on the bike, to win this stage today.”
The race continues Wednesday with stage 5, a 152km stage from La Spezia to Abetone, which finishes on a category 2 climb, which is just over 17 kilometers long.