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Giro Stage 4: Polanc Conquers Etna; Favorites Play Long Game

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It wasn’t an action-packed stage but for the Slovenian it was a memorable one.

Polanc Victorious on the Volcano
Tim de Waele

Jan Polanc of UAE became the first all-day breakaway survivor to win a stage of the 2017 Giro d’Italia as he took advantage of a headwind- and reality-induced stalemate behind him to claim the victory atop Mount Etna. Polanc was away for nearly all of this brief stage (distance-wise), and the 25-year-old Slovenian hung on bravely as the road kicked up and his original co-conspirators faded away one by one.

He started with Jacques Janse van Rensburg of Dimension Data, Pavel Brutt (again) of Gazprom, and Eugenio Alafaci of Trek for company, but Alafaci drifted back with 35km to go and Brutt popped as the race approached the lower slopes of Etna. Janse van Rensburg hung around for a few switchbacks as the climb up the flank of the smoking volcano stiffened, but for the last 10km it was Polanc against the clock. There were some difficult ramps where it looked like he was coming apart, but the final km eased off and allowed him enough road to salt away his second career win, both stages of the Giro.

Bob Jungels of Quick Step takes over the maglia rosa from his teammate Fernando Gaviria, having finished with the main group of favorites 29 seconds behind the victor Polanc. None of the big names was missing from the group, save for Ilnur Zakarin who accelerated away to steal back ten of the seconds he frittered away in stage 2. Despite the imposing presence of Etna, stage 4 unwound itself about how you might expect or even prefer for the first full week of the Giro: with nobody doing too much or too little.

Tim de Waele

On the road there were some notable moments. BMC’s Rohan Dennis was the first rider of the race to abandon, yielding to injuries suffered in a crash on stage 3. Katusha’s Alberto Losada also was unable to continue due to injury. With 17km to go the front of the peloton were misdirected (possibly by themselves) at a right turn and in the confusion several Katusha riders went down with their leader Zakarin, as well as a few others including Jeremy Roy. Obviously it was a temporary problem.

Pierre Rolland launched an attack with 12km left, Gaining 30 seconds as the peloton slowly crumbled and Tejay van Garderen of BMC slipped noticeably backward (but recovered eventually). Mikel Landa needed a wheel change with just under 10km to go and the final climb underway, and got towed back 1.5km later, with a few matches burnt. Rolland, meanwhile, was reeled in with about 5km remaining, and the race was on.

Steamy Etna
Tim de Waele

Or that was the hope anyway. With 3km to go only Jasper Hansen of Astana had given it a go. But at 2.4km Nibali gave it a go, just a little test, and Movistar were forced to lift a finger to reel him (and Hansen) in. The pack were riding into a headwind, which didn’t make things easy for any would-be attackers. Dumoulin threw a jab at 1.3km left, but was quickly covered. Zakarin then launched a counterattack and was allowed to get some distance, which he pocketed along with a small time bonus for his effort.

Results:

  1. Jan Polanc, UAE
  2. Ilnur Zakarin, Katusha, at 0.19
  3. Geraint Thomas, Sky, at 0.29
  4. Thibaut Pinot, FDJ, s.t.
  5. Dario Cataldo, Astana, s.t.
  6. Tom Dumoulin, Sunweb, s.t.
  7. Bob Jungels, Quick Step, s.t.
  8. Adam Yates, Orica-Scott, s.t.
  9. Bauke Mollema, Trek, s.t.
  10. Vincenzo Nibali, Bahrain Merida, s.t.

General Classification

  1. Jungels
  2. Thomas, at 0.06
  3. Yates, at 0.10
  4. Nibali, s.t.
  5. Domenico Pozzovivo, AG2R, s.t.
  6. Nairo Quintana, Movistar, s.t.
  7. Dumoulin, s.t.
  8. Mollema, s.t.
  9. Mikel Landa, Sky, s.t.
  10. Pinot, s.t.
Feel the lava
Tim de Waele