Giro d'Italia Stage 4: Ten Takeaways From the First Big GC Test
What we learned during the first major summit finish atop the otherworldly slopes of Mount Etna
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Bora-Hansgrohe’s Lennard Kämna displayed his world-class stage hunting abilities and added to his growing list of grand tour stage wins by deftly hunting down the lone leader Juan Pedro López inside the final kilometers atop the otherworldly and austere upper slopes of Mount Etna to win the first major mountain stage of this Giro d’Italia. While he missed out on a stage win, López was comforted by taking the race’s overall leadership, which he will likely hold all the way until stage 9’s summit finish at Blockhaus.
A few minutes down the slopes in the GC group, Richard Carapaz’s Ineos team set a blistering pace that attempted to dislodge a crash-wounded Simon Yates. While it was ultimately unsuccessful in that aim, it showed Carapaz to be both extremely fit and confident, while Yates, his biggest challenger for the Pink jersey, appeared to be hanging on for dear life, and the pace was successful in jettisoning multiple GC contenders, including Jumbo-Visma’s Tom Dumoulin and Tobias Foss.
Stage 4 Top Three:
Lennard Kämna +0
Juan Pedro López +0
Rein Taaramäe +34
GC Top Three:
Juan Pedro López +0
Lennard Kämna +39
Rein Taaramäe +58
Select Stage 4 GC Results:
Richard Carapaz +0
Romain Bardet +0
João Almeida +0
Mikel Landa +0
Thymen Arensman +0
Richie Porte +0
Wilco Kelderman +0
Simon Yates +0
Guillaume Martin +1’31
Vincenzo Nibali +2’15
Tobias Foss +2’15
Tom Dumoulin +6’33
Filtered Current GC Standings:
Simon Yates +0
Wilco Kelderman +13
Pello Bilbao +18
João Almeida +18
Richie Porte +22
Romain Bardet +24
Richard Carapaz +24
Mikel Landa +33
Guillaume Martin +2’24
Tobias Foss +2’32
Vincenzo Nibali +2’34
126km: With the breakaway building up a massive 10-minute lead early on, the Ineos team of Richard Carapaiz’s Ineos and Mikel Landa’s Bahrain team waste no time getting to the front to set pace and signal their intent to control this race and keep Lennard Kämna from getting a massive GC lead.
10km-ish: Trek’s Juan Pedro López uses his lightweight to his advantage by attacking when the break is on one of the steeper sections of Etna.
8.6km: Back in the peloton, Ineos has assumed the old “Sky Train” formation and is cranking up the pressure to see if they can shake any GC contenders loose, specifically Simon Yates, who suffered a crash earlier in the stage. Also notice Mikel Landa on the right side of the photo. While everyone looks on the limit, he looks completely unbothered by the pace and almost bored.
8.5km: And sure enough, just a few moments later, Jumbo-Visma’s co-leader, and 2017 Giro champion, Tom Dumoulin is dropped.
6.5km: Up front, Lennard Kämna decides to finally chase López and easily drops his breakaway companions.
5.1km: Back in the peloton, Ineos’ pace takes another victim when they drop the hometown hero, and two-time Giro winner, Vincenzo Nibali.
2.7km: It takes him nearly 4kms, but Kämna finally catches López when they reach the extremely windy exposed section, which favors him over the much smaller López.
2.4km: When he pulls up alongside López the two riders share a few words, which I’m assuming is related to the fact that López is poised to ride into the leader’s jersey if the two riders go to the line together while Kämna needs López to share the pace with him to avoid being outsprinted in the final few meters.
150m: Kämna smartly leads into the extremely tricky final turn and almost appears to brake check López in the apex.
100m: The move, whether intentional or not, creates a massive gap between the two riders in the corner that all but seals the win for Kämna.
GC Finish: When the GC group comes over the line a few minutes later, we see Carapaz sprinting all out in an effort to dislodge Yates, who is struggling at the back of the group, and create a not-insignificant time gap between the two riders.
1) Lennard Kämna is turning into the world’s best mountain stage breakaway rider
The German climber proved he is currently one of the best stage hunting mountain breakaway riders.
He has an impressive strike rate from breakaways in mountain stages. But, more than that, has an innate ability to win. His methodical reeling in of López along with his little brake check, show a natural nose for winning that most modern climbers lack.
2) Juan Pedro López gets a big jersey by giving up the win
The superlight Trek rider never had a chance to hold off the bigger and more powerful Kämna on the windy, exposed section, but did a great job to get what he could out of the situation (likely a week in Pink) and contesting the stage win against the much faster Kämna.
While it initially looked like he might have cut a deal with Kämna after being caught, his frustration after the stage showed that he was legitimately trying to win the stage, which makes sense considering he has zero pro victories to his name and doesn’t have a riding style that will put in a position to win very often.
3) Richard Carapaz and Ineos are the de facto leaders
The Ineos team wasted no time announcing their status as the favorite when they took control of the stage before the climb and signaled extreme confidence when they set a difficult pace on the climb in an effort to thin out the GC picture.
They likely felt empowered to push the pace due to Simon Yates being caught up in a crash and taking multiple trips back to the doctor’s car earlier in the stage.
The raw returns ended up being minimal, but the fact that Carapaz was sprinting all out for 7th place on the stage shows that he felt confident he could actually open a time gap to Yates and that any climbing weakness he showed on stage 2 was likely just a passing storm.
4) Simon Yates’ didn’t lose time today, but his bad habits could continue to cause him problems
After the dust settled on a difficult stage, he finished on the same time as Carapaz and got through the stage without losing any time and Trek has taken the responsibility that comes with the leader’s jersey for the remainder of the week.
But, it was certainly notable that he finished second-to-last in the GC group and was simply hanging on for dear life while Carapaz was sprinting away.
He will likely have time to recover before the next big test on stage 9, but more important is that his tendency to ride in the back of the pack, which he was doing on stage 3, could bite him again before we even get to the Blockhaus climb.
5) Jumbo-Visma suffered a nuclear GC meltdown
The Dutch super team had a horrible day with both of their GC options, Tom Dumoulin and Tobias Foss, being some of the only GC riders to lose time and find themselves without a rider within 4-minutes of the GC lead. This isn’t ideal for a team that seemed poised to ‘ruin’ the sport with the domination earlier in the season.
Foss also lost time on the early summit finishes in 2021, so this is not totally unexpected, and with eventual winner, Tao Geoghegan Hart, losing a similar amount of time here in 2020, there is certainly still hope for him to improve on his 9th place in 2021.
However, with Dumoulin now roughly six minutes behind Yates and Carapaz, and more importantly, appearing to lack the confidence needed to push through difficult moments on long climbs, his GC campaign is over before it even really started.
6) Astana’s race is unraveling with shocking speed
The team came into the Giro with two GC leaders in Miguel Ángel López and Vincenzo Nibali, but after just four stages, López is out of the race due to the flare-up of a knee injury and Nibali has tumbled down the GC standings after the race’s first summit finish.
In some ways, this time loss is good since it could free Nibali to target stage wins later in the race. But another view is that with behind-the-scenes turmoil building and the team struggling for any results, they needed a morale boost at this Giro, and this setback just provides more disappointment.
7) João Almeida is quietly improving on past GC campaigns
One of the big GC stories of the day that went almost unmentioned was Almeida looking calm and comfortable in the main GC group.
While a major time loss on an early climb forced him to play catchup throughout the 2021 edition, he leaves the first major test of 2022 ahead of Carapaz.
Ineos may want to take note of his ability to hang tough during their tough pace and be wary of riding so hard that they isolate Carapaz with Almeida later in the race.
8) Wilco Kelderman is looking better than ever
Bora’s Kelderman looked unshakable on the climb and is quietly lurking in a prime GC position just behind Simon Yates.
While he has struggled throughout his career to convert solid form into grand tour GC results, he is off to a great start and riding with a level of confidence I’ve never seen from him before.
In other Dutch news, 22-year-old Thymen Arensman quietly riding into the top ten
9) Guillaume Martin’s GC campaign took a hit
Despite spending weeks training on this climb earlier this year, he failed to actually climb this specific side, and it showed when he was dropped and lost 91-seconds to the GC group.
While not technically out of contention for an overall top ten yet, it will be interesting to see if he switches to gunning for stage wins or keeps riding his race.
10) Ineos’ work didn’t blow the race up today, but the numbers tell us the pace was absolutely brutal
We are still early in the race and many of the GC contenders appeared to be hanging onto the pace in the GC group rather easily, but make no mistake, this climb was ridden at a brutal speed.
For example, the GC group’s pace for the 23-kilometer (56-minute) climb of Etna was 24.15km/h (15mph), at 1437 VAM and an estimated 5.40w/kg.
This pace would have meant that while the major contenders weren’t distanced, everyone would have been on the limit.
If this type of pace-setting is deployed by Ineos on the harder stages to come later in the race, we could see some real damage in the peloton.
However, the risk with this type of pace-setting is if another contender is stronger than Carapaz, they could set up an attack that their own leader can’t respond to.
Stage 5 Preview
Tomorrow’s 174km-long stage to Messina will be an interesting game between the sprinters:
Groupama-FDJ, the team of Arnaud Démare, who won on a very similar stage in 2020, will try to dislodge Mark Cavendish on the mid-stage Cat 2 climb and attempt to keep the pace high to hold him off until the finish.
However, even if they can drop pure sprinters like Caleb Ewan, Fernando Gaviria, and Cavendish, they will have to deal with riders like Mathieu van der Poel and Biniam Girmay, who looked faster than Démare in the final meters of stage 3.