After the wonderful excitement and drama of stage three, the 246km leg between Policastro and Serra San Bruno always had the promise of being anti-climactic, even with the Giro’s first mountain top finish for 2013, with the added uncertainty caused by rain.
Given we saw so much activity yesterday, surely the big GC contenders would today be more worried about marking their rivals than making a dash for glory on the narrow cobbled road in Serra San Bruno.
As is often said, you don’t win a Grand Tour in the first week, but you can easily lose it.
On stage three, we saw Cadel latch on to the lead group inside the final 10 kilometres before making his late dash for second.
Given the technical nature of the twisting descent 15 kilometres from the finish, it was fantastic to see Cadel bridge across and come home so strongly. It was a nice momentum builder after his solid finish to the Giro del Trentino.
But at least Cadel was there unlike another Aussie who also has a significant history with the Giro.
Matthew Lloyd won the KOM Classification in the 2010 Giro and at the beginning of the season seemed to be very positive about and grateful for his contract with Lampre-Merida.
But since abandoning stage five of the Volta a Catalunya back in March, Lloyd has ‘disappeared’. He hasn’t posted on Facebook or Twitter. Is Lloyd’s time in the World Tour running out?
But I digress. Following stage three’s spine-tingling finale Aussie eyes were once again focused on what Cadel would do.
Because despite his strong second place, at times in stage three Cadel didn’t look convincing. Hopefully stage four would give us an indication one way or the other.
With the decisive climbs inside the final 50 kilometres, the other 190 of the stage was entirely predictable.
A four-rider break allowed to have its day in the sun with the Katusha boys left to marshal the time gap for their Maglia Rosa man Luca Paolini.
The margin stayed at around five minutes until the final 50 kilometres when Ayala from Euskaltel suddenly found himself by himself on the third to last climb.
The rain arrived on the descent with around 45 kilometres to ride and barely two kilometres later Ayala was caught on the third category Vibo Valentia.
But more attacks were inevitable, with Gretch and Pirazzi summiting first as the rain and gloom increased.
We might have seen Cameron Wurf challenging for those early climbing points but after his encouraging ride on stage one, he fell ill and struggled through stage three, just managing to perform his domestique duties.
The rain soon claimed some victims, none bigger than race favourite Vincenzo Nibali.
He had an incident on the descent of the Vibo Valentia and was forced to change bikes before chasing back frantically through the race convoy.
And so it arrived. The final climb. At only 907m the Crocce Ferrada climb didn’t sound too harsh, neither did the average 5.5 percent incline, but as the ramp touched 10 percent in parts with a six-kilometre dash to the finish after the summit, the opportunity existed for drama should someone want to take it on.
As expected a break was allowed to get away on the final ascent. Five riders attacked on the approach to the climb; including Maracto, Georges, Quintero and Rabotini.
Katusha was left to keep the margin somewhat manageable with anyone else of note staying out of sight.
Georges soon rode away from his companions and with 15 kilometres to ride built a 43-second lead.
Cue Team Sky to send four riders to the front and within 1.5km they’d caught Parazzi, Rabotini and Quintero.
Cadel meanwhile was sitting comfortably a few places behind Sir Wiggo and his three henchmen including Siutsou and Henao.
With 10 kilometres left, Georges 12-second lead was slender enough for veteran Danilo DiLuca to attack the peloton, bridge across and pass him with ease.
Chalapuo Gomez, a team Colombia rider joined DiLuca as Georges rolled back to the peloton.
The unlikely pairing rolled away in the wooded, wet, fog and gloom with Gomez summiting first but they were only around ten seconds in front of the bunch.
With seven kilometres to go the 2007 Giro winner DiLuca made another move but couldn’t shake Gomez or ultimately as it turned out the peloton.
It was a heartbreaking sight as the 37 year-old succumbed inside the final 350 metres before the unheralded Enrico Battaglin from Bardiani, one of the Giro’s smallest teams, claimed the stage honours in a bunch finish.
Another six hours and 15 minutes in the saddle saw no change to the race lead, but some significant movement.
Evans was one of the big winners, finishing sixth and once again getting away from Wiggins in the final few hundred metres.
Cadel is now 10th overall at 42 seconds to Paolini. But importantly he’s only eight seconds behind Wiggins. It’s been a good couple of days for Cadel.
Tonight’s flat 203km stage five should see little change at the top and offer a chance for the GC names to catch a ‘breather’ while hopefully staying out of trouble.