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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia stage 4: Aurélien Paret-Peintre scores breakaway sprint, Remco Evenepoel lets go of pink

Andreas Leknessund takes race lead as Soudal Quick-Step cedes GC responsibility in Giro's first mountain stage.

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Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Ag2r-Citröen) outkicked breakaway rival Andreas Leknessund (DSM) to win stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia.

Remco Evenepoel and his Soudal Quick-Step team ceded responsibility for the maglia rosa in Tuesday’s rugged mountain stage, and Leknessund’s second place was good enough to put him top of GC.

The rising 23-year-old star became the first Norwegian in 42 years to wear pink with his ride in the break.

“It’s super special [to take the jersey], I went for the stage and knew pink was possible,” Leknessund said at the finish.

“That was the goal before the stage, but as everyone knows, cycling is not so easy and to actually make it, it’s unbelievable.”

The main GC contenders rolled to the finish in each others’ wheels, more than two minutes back, meaning the gaps between Evenepoel, Primož Roglič (Jumb0-Visma), João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates), Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) and the rest of the top favorites remain unchanged.

Leknessund vaults 17 positions in the classification to take a 28-second lead over Evenepoel ahead of a likely sprint finish Wednesday in stage 5.

“I am not sad about it,” Evenepoel said of losing his GC lead.

“I’m second in the classification, that’s still a good place. The intention was to give away the jersey, especially with a view to tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.”

Evenepoel passed on his GC lead Tuesday on stage 4.

Three second-category climbs, including the Colle Molella summit finish, marked the Giro peloton’s first foray into truly mountainous territory.

Sketchy slick roads and a rugged parcours scattered with uncategorized ascents saw Soudal Quick-Step struggle to keep control in an extra-aggressive start.

The bunch split handfuls of times in the first 85 km of racing and over the first categorized climb of the stage.

Soudal Quick-Step initially looked ragged while it tried to keep the race together as it waited on a “suitable” break, and Evenepoel’s teammates burned through matches stitching up the groups.

GC teams Jumbo-Visma and EF Education-EasyPost were both active in the all-action start, while Almeida was dropped for some time before UAE Team Emirates paced him back.

It wasn’t until around 90km to go that the winning break of seven got away over the second marked mountain of the day.

The peloton let the gap grow in the final hours of the race as Evenepoel looked like he was ready to let go of his pink maglia.

The escape rolled into the 10 km Molella summit with 4:20 advantage, putting Paret-Peintre, Leknessund, Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo), Vincenzo Albanese (Eolo-Kometa) and Nikola Conci (Alpecin Deceuninck) into the frame for a pink jersey after they all started the day less than five minutes back on GC.

Ineos Grenadiers and Bora-Hansgrohe didn’t play per Evenepoel’s script and set the pace in the peloton, cutting into the leaders’ gap.

The pink jersey seemed isolated in the group after his Quick-Step team had been put under pressure from the opening hours of the race.

Leknessund wanted the stage and GC, but will be more than content with ‘only’ the pink jersey.

Leknessund dug deep with an attack at 4km but couldn’t drop his last remaining breakaway rival Paret-Peintre.

The twosome rolled through to the final sprint and the Norwegian was forced into leading out — and losing — the sprint.

Although Ineos Grenadiers and Bora-Hansgrohe clawed back some of the gap to the escape in the final climb, possibly in a mission to force Evenepoel into keeping pink, it wasn’t enough, and the GC group rolled in a few minutes behind.

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