Giro d'Italia 2021: Stage 4 Preview - A Change in Pink?
Rouleur previews stage 4 of the 2021 Giro d’Italia which increases in difficulty again with over 3,000 metres of climbing. This follows a famous win for Taco van der Hoorn and Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert.
Giro d'Italia stage 4 follows a stage to be remembered. An early breakaway of eight riders on stage 3 set off featuring the youngest rider in the race Andrii Ponomar. Bora-Hansgrohe soon came to the front of the peloton to control the race for Peter Sagan, and the stage seemed to be running according to the script.
Simon Pellaud and Taco van der Hoorn were the only riders remaining of the early break entering the final 10km, where the latter decided to attack solo. The finish was as tense as it was euphoric, with Van der Hoorn being caught rapidly by the closing peloton. He entered the final few hundred metres with a lead of just seconds, but held on for a remarkable breakaway victory.
Onto stage 4, then, which we expect to be exciting too, but for very different reasons.
Giro d’Italia Stage 4 profile
Stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia kicks-off in Piacenza and heads in the direction of Central Italy before concluding in Sestola of the Emilia-Romagna region. The stage is easily the most difficult so far with over 3,000 vertical metres, all of which take place in the latter half of the stage.
The first 80km are almost entirely flat. The breakaway will form here and the fight to join it could be feisty. From 80km, the climbing begins. The Rosenna climb is 4km at 5.5% and an intermediate sprint sits at the top. This may tempt the maglia ciclamino adversaries up the road.
The terrain is undulating for the next 20km, where the riders will find the Castello di Carpineti. The third-category climb is 3.5km at 7.3%, but features a pitch well over 10% towards its peak. By this point, we could already see a reduced peloton.
The second third-category climb of the day arrives at kilometre 135. The Montemolino is 8.5km and 5.8%, though again it features much steeper pitches. Rolling terrain follows the longest climb of the race so far until we reach the Montecreto. This climb is uncategorised, but at 4km and 7.3% it is punishing and could provide a prime opportunity to attack for those that don’t wish to wait for the final ascent of the day.
However, the Colle Passerino will likely decide the stage. Arriving with just 7km remaining, it may be sensible for those with fresh legs to wait for this moment to make their move. The climb averages a leg-sapping 9.5% and is over 4km in length. There are also bonus seconds available at the foot of the climb which may tempt Remco Evenepoel or other GC contenders to gain time if the breakaway has been caught.
The stage doesn’t conclude at the top of the climb, though. The final 2.5km features a short but technical descent, before the road punches uphill as it enters the commune of Sestola. The road narrows here and should multiple riders arrive together, this kick provides a perfect launch pad to attack. The final kilometre in Sestola remains highly technical and good positioning will be pivotal.
Image credit: CorVos/SWpix.com
The stage could be decided in a variety of scenarios. Let’s examine each before looking at the favourites.
First, the early breakaway. Filippo Ganna may struggle when the climbs head upwards of 8% in gradient, this is where he'll likely relinquish pink. This may nudge Ineos into leaning on other teams, where the breakaway may get their chance to build an unassailable lead. However, the peloton will be hesitant to give the breakaway a second consecutive chance to steal the headlines following Taco van der Hoorn's already famous win on stage 3.
Some teams may wish to push on with their GC favourites in an attempt to gain early ground on their opposition. These teams could include BikeExchange and Bahrain-Victorious, who possess two of the world's strongest pure climbers in the form of Simon Yates and Mikel Landa. The maglia rosa could also be up for grabs, meaning an extra incentive for GC riders to attack on the final climb.
Nonetheless, it may be difficult for the GC-focused teams to control the breakaway and following attacks meaning the stage win could slide from their grasp. With bigger mountains to come and 17 stages ahead, they may also keep their cards closer to their chest for now.
That leaves the non-GC favourites as the prime contenders, be it from the breakaway or with a move later on. Prior to departing Turin, Bauke Mollema stated that he doesn’t plan on fighting for the GC at this year’s Giro d’Italia. The Dutchman was fifth overall two years ago, and is more than capable of putting together a respectable GC campaign. Mollema, now at his 18th Grand Tour, is looking to become the 102nd rider to win a stage at all three Grand Tours and only requires a Giro stage to add to his victories at the Tour and La Vuelta in 2017 and 2013 respectively. This is Bauke's first genuine chance, but he is still just 44 seconds down in the GC which means he may be kept on a tight leash. His teammate Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier loves moving into the breakaway and will be given more freedom to attack, maybe he is Trek's best option at this point.
EF Education-Nippo haven’t entered the Giro just to show-off their alternative kaleidoscopic jersey, but also to fight for a GC position with Hugh Carthy. Carthy will likely hold-off on his all-out assault on pink for now. Instead, EF could hunt stage victory with Ruben Guerreiro. The winner of last year’s maglia azzurra and stage to Roccaraso is brilliant on undulating, hilly terrain, and also has a brutal kick meaning he can beat rivals in a sprint.
EF have a second option in Simon Carr. The 22-year-old is making his grand tour debut, but is already a fantastic climber — he was 8th on Prati di Tivo earlier this season at Tirreno-Adriatico. He is over ten minutes down in the GC too, which means he'll be free to attack.
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Team UAE-Emirates are without an out-and-out GC leader this year and that could play into their advantage when it comes to stage hunting. Davide Formolo should be let loose to attack throughout the race and the Italian is more than capable on grueling, steep ascents. Formolo won after a long solo move at last year’s Criterium du Dauphine, and may look to go solo here too. UAE could also send Valerio Conti or Joe Dombrowski up the road either as a bridge for Formolo or to ride for their own chances at the stage.
Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec have been attacking as ever at the Giro d’Italia thus far, which was evident when they sent both Simon Pellaud and 18-year-old Andrii Ponomar into the breakaway on stage 3. They’ll look to be active again here, and may have found their next climbing gem in the form of Jefferson Alexander Cepeda. The diminutive Ecuadorian is at his second Giro d’Italia and exhibited a superb talent for climbing at the Tour of the Alps just a few weeks ago on his way to fourth overall. If he attacks here, he poses a real challenge.
Bora-Hansgrohe will be disheartened to lose the chance at stage victory by such a narrow margin after riding on the front for essentially the entirety of stage 3. They will be eager to make up for it tomorrow, and Felix Großschartner could be their man. The Austrian is a more than capable climber and is not averse to attacking either — he won the final stage of the Tour of the Alps solo in late April. Crucially, he lost nine minutes on stage 3, meaning he should be free to move up the road as he isn't a danger in the overall standings. Giovanni Aleotti is in the same boat and could also be used in the breakaway.
The Colle Passerino is an arduous climb which cannot be underestimated — it could cause havoc amidst the GC favourites. Despite that, we think the stage will be very difficult to control which will therefore allow those not in the GC fight to claim stage glory. We are going with a victory for Bora-Hansgrohe and Felix Großschartner. The 27-year-old proved that he is in brilliant form lately and the time he lost on stage 3 places him in a great position to attack the day.