Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox) claimed the biggest win of his career with victory on stage four of the Giro d’Italia – Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) dropped to sixth overall after being caught on the wrong side of a split in the peloton.
The 23-year-old Battaglin outsprinted Fabio Felline (Androni) and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) at the end of a 246km stage played out in heavy rain.
Wiggins lost 17 seconds after crossing the line in 48th. He was caught behind a crash in the closing kilometres but the race jury ruled the Tour de France champion was not sufficiently held up by the incident to be awarded the same time as the lead group.
Wiggins has seen the advantage earned by Team Sky’s time trial victory evaporate and the 32-year-old now lies 34 seconds behind race leader Luca Paolini (Katusha), on the same time as Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and two seconds behind Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
“Brad was caught behind a crash,” said Team Sky directeur sportif Marcus Ljungvist. “It’s one of those things that happens in bike racing. It’s certainly not the end of the world.”
The second longest stage of the race followed the coast for nearly 200km before turning inland to tackle two late climbs, with the second crested less than seven kilometres from the finish.
Seven riders formed the day’s breakaway but that group split into two inside the final 100km, with Julien Berard (Ag2r La Mondiale), Johan Le Bon (FDJ), Pim Ligthart (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Miguel Minguez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) pushing ahead to stay clear of the Katusha-led peloton.
Vini Fantini-Selle Italia then hit the front of the peloton and the gap to the breakaway, which had been close to eight minutes, began to tumble with the final two climbs approaching.
The four riders were caught on the opening climb to Vibo Valenta as the weather closed in and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) was forced to use his fabled descending skills to chase back on after puncturing early on the descent.
With the race as one, a number of attacks fired off the front of the peloton but, with the general classification contenders coming to the fore on the final climb, none stuck until Sylvain Georges (Ag2r La Mondiale) broke away from a group which contained Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM), Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvoli-CSF Inox), Matteo Rabottini (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) and Carlos Quintero (Colombia).
Team Sky came to the fore with 15km to go, quickly shelling a number of riders out of the back of the peloton, but that didn’t stop Danilo Di Luca (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia), who won the Giro in 2007, but was stripped of a second place finish in 2009, from attacking.
Robinson Chalapud (Colombia) went with him and the pair soon bridged across to Georges and subsequently dropped the Frenchman. The duo crossed the summit of the final climb with a 15-second advantage and Di Luca led the charge on the descent, bringing Chalapud with him into the final kilometre, but his effort came to nothing inside the final 500m, leaving Battaglin to surge clear and secure victory.
Giro d’Italia 2013 – stage four – result
1) Enrico Battaglin (ITA) – Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox – 6:14:19 hour
2) Fabio Felline (ITA) – Androni Giocattoli – same time
3) Giovanni Visconti (ITA) – Movistar
4) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Team Sky
5) Arnold Jeannesson (FRA) – FDJ
6) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing
7) Benat Intxausti (SPA) – Movistar
8) Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) – Garmin-Sharp
9) Robert Kiserlovski (CRO) – Radioshack-Leopard
10) Luca Paolini (ITA) – Katusha
1) Luca Paolini (ITA) – Katusha – 15:18:51 hours
2) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Team Sky +17″
3) Benat Intxausti (SPA) – Movistar +26″
4) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana +31″
5) Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) – Garmin-Sharp +34″
6) Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Team Sky – same time
7) Giampaolo Caruso (ITA) – Katusha +36″
8) Sergio Henao (COL) – Team Sky +37″
9) Mauro Santambrogio (ITA) – Vini Fantini-Selle Italia +39″
10) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing +42″