Bouhanni Takes Stage 4 of Giro
Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) has won Stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia 2014. The Frenchman took a bunch sprint at the end of a flat, mainly neutralized, 112-km run from Giovinazzo to Bari in 2:22:06. Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) finished second, and Tom Veelers (Giant-Shimano) took third. Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) remains the maglia rosa.
The day began with a surprise. Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano), who won the race’s first two road stages and was the favorite to win today, did not start. He picked up a fever after Stage 3, and dropped out of the race on the advice of the team physician.
Many of the riders were happy for the Giro to arrive in Italy from Ireland because of Ireland’s rain, but the first Italian stage of this year’s Giro was no better than the three in the Emerald Isle. Before the start, riders checked the skies and the forecast and felt that the tight turns on the circuit in Bari could be dangerous in the rain. When the stage began, they asked race director Mauro Vegni and Marco Velo, his assistant, to neutralize the last lap of the circuit, with general classification times at the beginning of that lap being official before the sprinters battled for the win. The peloton deliberately slowed, and no breakaways occurred. With 42 km left, RCS Sport, the race organizer, and the UCI commissaries capitulated. At that point, the racing started.
Orica-GreenEdge rode tempo. With 13 km left, Bouhanni had a mechanical problem and dropped back for a bike change. With teammate Laurent Pichon’s help, the Frenchman got back on. Cannondale took charge at the front for Elia Viviani, but a crash occurred in the last three km and took down a number of the Italian squad’s riders and split the field. Giant-Shimano led the lead group with four riders. Nizzolo and Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida) held onto the Dutch squad’s train, and Bouhanni joined the group in the last km. Veelers started the sprint, but Bouhanni came around him for the win.
Bouhanni’s win took all of the perseverance that he could muster, along with a dollop of luck. “Thirteen km from the finish line, I suffered a puncture and a broken rear wheel,” the Frenchman said. “I had to stand at the side of the road waiting for help and then change bikes. My teammate Laurent Pichon waited for me, but it still took us took an entire circuit to catch up, and we rejoined the group only on the last circuit. As a team it took everything we had.
“In the closing km, there was a crash on a right-hand bend. I managed to avoid it by swerving left, and luckily I had my team-mate Chavanel ahead of me, and with his help I managed to regain the leaders. Coming out of the final curve, I had maybe 20 m to make up on the rider ahead of me, and I just gave it everything.”
In the overall, Matthews leads Alessandro Petacchi (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) by 0:08 and Daniel Oss (BMC) by 0:10. Stage 5 could change this stage of affairs. The 203-km ride from Taranto to Viggiano will end with two Category 4 climbs. Who will take the win? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!