There was action this Tuesday on the Giro. After a gradual start in the first two road stages, the bunch experienced a much more grueling day to Lake Laceno. For this first stage in the medium mountains, the fight for the breakaway lasted nearly two hours, and Bruno Armirail narrowly missed the good move. The latter went on to play for the stage and the pink jersey. Thibaut Pinot finished in a select group of GC contenders but also kept his best climber’s jersey after scoring a few extra points in the first part of the race. The Frenchman entered the top-20 overall as well after this fourth stage.
All riders were prepared. Towards Lake Laceno, in Campania, the race was going to be drastically different to the previous days. “We knew there was going to be a big fight for the breakaway knowing that Remco Evenepoel and Soudal-Quick Step had announced that they wanted to give the pink jersey away”, explained Sébastien Joly. “It led to an extremely fast-paced race.” The attacks began from the start and kept on going for nearly eighty hilly kilometres. “We had decided not to move too much until kilometre 40, but to remain attentive until then”, added the Groupama-FDJ’s sports director. “Stefan was very careful at the start of the race and managed to follow the moves”. The Swiss rider even joined a group of a dozen men across the first few hills, but the peloton did not let go. The fight therefore continued in the first listed climb of the day, which however was not enough to make a difference. Approaching the summit, Thibaut Pinot therefore moved back up with the “maglia azzurra” on his shoulders. “It really was the race circumstances that allowed me to grab points today,” he said. “The breakaway hadn’t gone yet, and since I had to be positioned anyway because the descent was very technical, I thought that I might as well take points. As long as it doesn’t cost me too much effort, I can keep doing this.”
“I enjoy it as much as I can”, Thibaut Pinot
After a strong pull from Bruno Armirail, the Frenchman accelerated a few hundred metres from the top to score eighteen points and thus increase his lead in the classification. The fight for the breakaway resumed in the downhill, and seven men managed to take the lead before returning to the flat: Vincenzo Albanese (EOLO-Kometa), Aurélien Paret-Peintre (AG2R Citroën), Nicola Conci (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samic), Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Trek-Segafredo), Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) and Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM). “Bruno went for it, but a little too late,” continued Sébastien. “It’s a shame because he could have been with the seven riders who fought for the victory and the pink jersey. Unfortunately, he stayed at fifteen, then thirty seconds. We stopped him as he didn’t manage to bridge across before the bottom of the second climb. It was useless to stay in-between, there was no chance”. Since the seven leading men did not allow him to re-join, the French time trial champion had to let his day’s hopes slip away. “He was behind the splits at the start of the race, he spent a bit of energy to get back to the main group and I think he paid for it a bit”, said Thibaut. “That’s a pity. We had the possibility of taking the jersey today with Stefan or him. It’s a missed opportunity for the team but the road to Rome is still very long.”
In the second part of the race, the peloton more or less came back together and let the breakaway take a six-minute lead. The fugitives therefore had the opportunity to fight for the stage and the pink jersey. Aurélien Paret-Peintre took the win, Andreas Leknessund took the overall lead, while Thibaut Pinot kept up with the GC group’s high pace in climb to Lago Laceno. The Frenchman crossed the line in twenty-ninth position, moved up to twentieth overall, but also returned to the podium to collect the blue jersey. “I knew it could be difficult if a rider from the break took the maximum points on the last two climbs, but it didn’t happen, so it’s a good thing”, he said. “I enjoy it as much as I can. As for the final, the last climb was still hard, and we did it at a good pace. I think all those who will fight for the overall were there. We can already see who’s up there”. After four stages, Thibaut Pinot is 2’33’’ behind the new Norwegian leader. “There will be two stages for punchers-sprinters in the coming days, then the first real mountain stage in Gran Sasso d’Italia on Friday”, concluded Sébastien Joly.