A mountain stage with approximately 3,500 meters cumulative elevation gain with two ascents: the Portella di Femmina Morta and the final climb of the Salto del Cane ascent at an average gradient over 7 percent and topping 12 percent leading to the Rifugio Sapienza. A section along the northern coast is followed by two long climbs and one long descent crossing the Nebrodi and Etna Parks. This will be the first summit finish of this Giro.
Stage 4: Polanc's slow burn wins on Etna; Jungels leads
Jan Polanc persisted out of an all-day breakaway to win Giro d’Italia stage 4 atop the Mount Etna volcano Tuesday. The Slovenian, riding for UAE Team Emirates, rode off the front most of the day with Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (Dimension Data) and Pavel Brutt (Rusvelo). Though Polanc’s advantage over the GC favorites dwindled to less than one minute, he held on to win his second career Giro stage. Katusha-Alpecin’s Ilnur Zakarin attacked the group to finish second, ahead of Geraint Thomas (Sky).
“It was constantly winds, headwinds. It was difficult,” said Polanc, 25. “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.”
Quick-Step’s Bob Jungels finished with the leaders and moved into the pink jersey. His teammate Fernando Gaviria, winner of stage 3, was dropped and ceded the overall lead on the climb.
Top-10, stage 4
- 1. Jan POLANC, UAE ABU DHABI, in 4:55:58
- 2. Ilnur ZAKARIN, TEAM KATUSHA ALPECIN, at :19
- 3. Geraint THOMAS, TEAM SKY, at :29
- 4. Thibaut PINOT, FDJ, at :29
- 5. Dario CATALDO, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at :29
- 6. Tom DUMOULIN, TEAM SUNWEB, at :29
- 7. Bob JUNGELS, QUICK – STEP FLOORS, at :29
- 8. Adam YATES, ORICA – SCOTT, at :29
- 9. Bauke MOLLEMA, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at :29
- 10. Vincenzo NIBALI, BAHRAIN – MERIDA, at :29
- 1. Bob JUNGELS, QUICK – STEP FLOORS, in 19:41:56
- 2. Geraint THOMAS, TEAM SKY, at :06
- 3. Adam YATES, ORICA – SCOTT, at :10
- 4. Vincenzo NIBALI, BAHRAIN – MERIDA, at :10
- 5. Domenico POZZOVIVO, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at :10
- 6. Nairo QUINTANA, MOVISTAR TEAM, at :10
- 7. Tom DUMOULIN, TEAM SUNWEB, at :10
- 8. Bauke MOLLEMA, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at :10
- 9. Mikel LANDA MEANA, TEAM SKY, at :10
- 10. Thibaut PINOT, FDJ, at :10
Polanc had about two minutes’ advantage with five kilometers to ride on the volcano.
A number of prominent GC favorites had hiccups in the run-in to the final climb. Zakarin and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) both were slowed by crashes. “I’m not so good. I crashed pretty hard, which wasn’t great just before the climb,” said Kruijswijk.
Tejay van Garderen (BMC) had to put a foot down at the base of the climb. Mikel Landa (Sky) suffered a mechanical on the Etna climb. Those four riders were all able to rejoin the front group after their respective difficulties.
“Fast day, nice tailwind in the beginning. Then it got really nervous in the lead in to Etna,” said van Garderen. “Then the climb up to Etna itself, it was hard but it was a headwind in the final so a lot of moves just got canceled out. We’ll have to wait until later to see some big action.”
An early attack by Cannondale-Drapac climber Pierre Rolland was snuffed out inside of the final 10 kilometers.
With the gap to Polanc falling to about 1:30, Astana’s Jesper Hansen attacked with three kilometers to go.
Then, Nibali accelerated, but the peloton was not about to let him ride clear. The move stretched the front group and quickly brought back Hansen. The Italian’s Bahrain-Merida teammate Giovanni Visconti said the attack was planned to see how his rivals would respond. “He’s [Nibali] obviously not in peak form yet, but it will be different by the time he arrives on the third week.”
After the bunch regrouped, Dimension Data’s Igor Anton launched an attack. Hansen followed and then set off alone again.
The leaders caught the Danish rider a second time. Heading into the final kilometer, the GC favorites began to spar. Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin tried an acceleration. Then, Katusha-Alpecin’s Ilnur Zakarin went off the front.
The peloton was content to let the Russian ride away to second place and the rest sprinted for third place.
Claiming he felt “good,” Thomas said the expected hostilities were tempered by the tough conditions. The Sky leader sprinted to third.
“It [the climb] didn’t go ballistic, there was a strong headwind and it’s the first big stage of the race,” Thomas added. “Everyone was unsure, testing each other, it was a little bit of cat and mouse.”
Jungels will wear the maglia rosa into stage 5, which should not be as testing for the GC favorites, as it is a flat, 157km race to Messina, Nibali’s hometown.
“On Sunday the finish is on Blockhaus, and there are going to be bigger favorites than me, guys like Nairo [Quintana],” added Jungels. “The color of my jersey has changed, but my opinion of my Giro didn’t. It’s not going to be easy because there are so many contenders in this year’s Giro.
“My main goal is to make a good GC here, it’s a good milestone this year for my career.”