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While the GC riders battled for seconds on the final climb, Formolo emerged as the strongest from a big 29-rider breakaway, narrowly holding off the favourites in La Spezia; Clarke finished second and took the overall lead

Photo: Cannondale-Garming Pro Cycling

DAVIDE FORMOLO

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GIRO D'ITALIA

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JONATHAN MONSALVE

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MITCHELTON-SCOTT

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SIMON CLARKE

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12.05.2015 @ 18:01 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Garmin) took what seems to have been a long overdue first professional victory when he emerged as the strongest from a very big 29-rider breakaway on a very dramatic and hard day in the Giro d’Italia. The Italian attacked with 15km to go and managed to hold off a select group of favourites that was led home by Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Jonathan Monsalve (Southeast) and it was the latter who took the overall lead from teammate Michael Matthews who cracked in the hard terrain.

 

Less than one year ago, Davide Formolo amazed the entire cycling world when an in-form Vincenzo Nibali was unable to drop the neo-pro in the Italian Championships just weeks after the youngster had finished 7th in the Tour de Suisse, his first-ever WorldTour race. The performance made the Italian cycling fans describe him as the next big Italian grand tour hope after Nibali and Fabio Aru.

 

The expectations for the young Italian were massive at the start of the 2015 season but in the early part of the year nothing went according to plan for the Cannondale-Garmin rider. For some reason, he never reached his best form and so he flew under the radar going into his first grand tour, the Giro d’Italia.

 

Today things came together for the climbing talent when he won a hugely dramatic and very exciting fourth stage of his home race. With an impressive solo ride on the 17km finishing circuit around the city of La Spezia, he dropped his surviving rivals from an early 29-rider breakaway that at one point had enjoyed an advantage of more than 10 minutes and despite a big fight between the GC riders on the final climb, he managed to hold off his chasers to win the stage.

 

Formolo had been attentive when the race exploded on the first climb in the opening 25km of the race and made it into the 29-rider group that escaped and included no less of a figure than Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo). His presence meant that Tinkoff-Saxo did nothing to chase the break down and as neither Astana nor Sky reacted, they suddenly had an advantage of more than 10 minutes.

 

This was the signal for Etixx-QuickStep and Tinkoff-Saxo to stabilize the situation but it was a big surge by Astana on the penultimate climb with 60km to go that made the difference. Their aggressive riding made the peloton explode to pieces, leaving just 19 riders at the top while riders like Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale), Benat Intxausti (Movistar) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) found themselves behind.

 

Meanwhile, the front group was gradually whittled down and as they started the final 17km circuit, only Formolo, Simon Clarke, Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE), Dario Cataldo (Astana), Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani), Darwin Atapuma, Amael Moinard (BMC), Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudla), Giovanni Visconti, Andrey Amador (Movistar), Jonathan Monsalve (Southeast), Kanstantsin Siutsou, Salvatore Puccio (Sky) and Kreuziger were left. In the peloton, Astana still had Fabio Aru, Paolo Tiralongo, Andrey Zeits, Diego Rosa, Mikel Landa and Tanel Kangert and they were joined Damiano Caruso (BMC), Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-QuickStep), Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida), Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto Soudal), Alexandre Geniez (FDJ), Ion Izagirre, Ruben Fernandez (Movistar), Damiano Cunego (Nippo), Yury Trofimov (Katusha), Richie Porte, Leopold König, Mikel Nieve (Sky), Alberto Contador and Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo) and a group of eearly escapees that had been brought back.

 

Zeits and Kangert were sacrificing themselves completely and as there was no cooperation in the front group, the gap was melting away. At the start of the lap it was only 1.40 and Formolo knew that he had to attack.

 

The Italian took off in the flat section and immediately got a gap. Visconti and Moinard set off in pursuit but they constantly lost ground to the strong Italian.

 

As soon as they hit the climb, Rosa took over the pace-setting and he sent all the early attackers, Niemiec, Nieve, Fernandez, Rogers, Izagirre out the back door. Meanwhile, Formolo had seen his advantage being reduced to just a minute.

 

Tiralongo took over from Rosa and his faster pace spelled the end for Cunego, Caruso, Trofimov and Geniez who were the next to get dropped. Moments later Aru made his move and only Contador and Porte could keep up with him.

 

The trio quickly made it up to the Kreuziger group where Cataldo started to work hard. Van den Broeck almost made the junction but he never made it and instead riders started to get dropped due to Cataldo’s fast pace.

 

At the top of the climb, Formolo was 33 seconds ahead of Visconti and Moinard and 47 seconds ahead of the main group which was now down to just Cataldo, Aru, Atapuma, Monfort, Chaves, Monsalve, Porte, Siutsou, Contador and Kreuziger. Clarke was a few seconds behind and he managed to make it back on the descent.

 

From there it was a big pursuit. Visconti and Moinard were quickly brought back while Cataldo and Kreuziger started to work hard in the main group to increase their advantage over riders like Uran and Van Den Broeck. However, they never managed to catch Formolo who still had an advantage of 22 seconds at the line. Atapuma tried to lead Moinard out for the sprint but it was Clarke who edged out Monsalve and Visconti to take second.

 

That was enough for Clarke to take the overall lead with a 10-second advantage over his teammate Chaves. He takes it into tomorrow’s tough fifth stage which includes the first summit finish of the race. After a flat first part, the riders will go up a category 3 climb before again hitting flatter terrain. In the finale, they will go up the 17km Abetone climb whose final 6km are rather easy with a gradient of just 4-5%.

 

A hilly stage

After yesterday’s first climbing, the riders faced more undulating terrain in stage 4 which brought them over 150km from Chiavari to La Spezia. The stage only included three category 3 climbs but it was a day of constant ups and downs. In the first 30km, they tackled the first climb while the second one was located with 60km to go. The stage ended with one lap of a 17km finishing circuit that included the final short, steep climb which summited just 9.9km from the finish.

 

All riders who finished yesterday’s stage took the start under a beautiful sunny sky and they were determined to get the race off to a brutally fast opening. Pier Paolo De Negri (Nippo) attacked straight from the fun, followed by Fumiyuki Beppu (Trek), Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL) and Louis Vervaeke (Lotto Soudal) but that move was brought back.

 

A fast start

The attacking continued and Tjallingii, Adam Hansen, Maxim Belkov, Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r), Sylvain Chavanel (IAM), Jaroslaw Marycz (CCC), Pavel Kochetkov (Katusha) were all among the early attackers. As they hit the bottom of the first climb, Marycz was ahead with a small gap but he was quickly brought back.

 

Chavanel tried a solo move and riders like Brett Lancaseter, Kevin Reza, Hansen, Visconti, Pieter Weening, Nikolay Mihaylov, Elia Viviani, Manuele Mori, Tjallingii, Edoardo Zardini, Kochetkov, Daniele Colli, Vervaeke, Franco Pellizotti, Kristof Vandewalle, Esteban Chaves were all part of the action. Meanwhile, several riders were dropped, including Gianni Meersman who would later abandon the race.

 

29 riders get clear

The foundations for the early break was laid with 131km to go when Franco Pellizotti, Zardini, Amador, Alessandro Bisolti (Nippo) attacked. They were quickly joined by a lot of riders and suddenly 29 riders had taken off while Tinkoff-Saxo slowed down the peloton which nearly came to a standstill.

 

Montaguti, Pellizotti, Simone Stortoni, Cataldo, Zeits, Zardini, Colbrelli, Moinard, Atapuma, Sylwester Szmyd, Arnaud Courteille, Tsgabu Grmay, Monfort, Visconti, Amador, Bisolti, Chaves, Clarke, Pieter Weening, Monsalve, Mauro Finetto, Formolo, Tom Danielson, Chad Haga, Kochetkov, Martijn Keizer, Siutsou, Puccio and Kreuziger were the riders in the group but they had no cooperation. Finetto, Amador, Zeits and Pellizotti attacked but as Zardini worked hard for the KOM points, they were brought back. The Bardiani rider countered and crested the summit with a small advantage over Pellizotti while Visconti and Clarke were first from the big group.

 

No reaction

The peloton still hadn’t reacted and at the top they had been distanced by 3.35. Meanwhile Zardini had dropped back to the group while Pellizotti stayed clear for a little longer before he was also caught.

 

Tinkoff-Saxo moved to the front to set the pace on the descent before Sky briefly took over. However, the group again came to a standstill after Tom Boonen had taken a turn for Etixx-QuickStep.

 

Etixx-QuickStep start to chase

Amador attacked out of the lead group but he was quickly brought back. However, he was part of the action when he joined Keizer, Danielson, Pellizotti, Moinard, Haga, Montaguti, Zeits and Courteille to form a lead group.

 

With 106km to go, Visconti, Formolo, Clarke and Monsalve joined those riders and later Grmay, Colbrelli and Finetto also made it across to make it a 16-rider group. At this point the gap was 9.40 and now Etixx-QuickStep started to chase with Iljo Keisse and Petr Vakoc.

 

Cataldo joins the leaders

Dario Cataldo was in lone pursuit of the front group and after Zeits dropped back to assist him, he made it across. Meanwhile, Kreuziger, Chaves, Monfort, Kochetkov, Siutsou and Weening were further back but when they finally started to work together, they picked up Atapuma, Zardini, Bisolti, Stortoni, Szmyd and Puccio who had been further ahead.

 

Davide Malacarne and Roger Kluge were now also working in the peloton but the gap had gone out to more than 10 minutes. They quickly stopped their effort though.

 

Tinkoff-Saxo take control

With 85km to go, Tinkoff-Saxo wanted to control the situation and put Manuele Boaro and Matteo Tosatto on the front where they worked with Keisse and Vakoc. Meanwhile, the riders had started to climb the Passo del Bracco and here Kreuziger made a huge surge that saw his group explode. With 80km to go, he joined the leaders alongside Monfort, Siutsou, Szmud, Chaves, Atapuma, Keizer, Puccio, Zardini, Stortoni, Bisolti and Kochetkov while Weening was dropped.

 

Pellizotti and Montaguti immediately attacked at a point when the gap had come down to 8.55. At this point, Astana also had Luis Leon Sanchez working on the front.

 

The break splits up

Danielson dropped out of the lead group due to a mechanical before a bigger group caught the two leaders while riders like Kochetkov, Bisolti, Szmyd and Zardini were distanced. The group was now down to 21 riders but with no cooperation, there were constant attacks.

 

Colbrelli took off and he was joined by Moinard just as they crested the summit of a small climb. On the descent, Amador and Keizer rejoined them and later Haga, Puccio and Montaguti also got back.

 

Astana do some damage

On the descent, Astana hit the front of the peloton with their entire team and they significantly upped the pace. As soon as they started to climb Passo del Termine with 50km to go, the peloton exploded as Diego Rosa, Tanel Kangert and Paolo Tiralongo were doing a lot of damage until only the 19 riders mentioned earlier were left.

 

Colbrelli led Keizer and Moinard across the line in the final intermediate sprint while Formolo and Monfort attacked from the Kreuziger group. They made it up to the lead group that had been whittled down to just Amador, Zeits, Moinard, Puccio and Colbrelli.

 

Kreuziger rejoins the front group

Kreuziger decided that it was time to ride hard and together with Clarke, Visconti, Chaves, Siutsout, Atapuma, Monsave and Cataldo, he picked up Colbrelli who had been dropped. Meanwhile, Amador beat Formolo and Puccio in the sprint for the KOM points.

 

At the top of the climb, the Kreuziger group had lost 25 seconds while the peloton was at 5.50. With 40km to go, the two front groups merged.

 

Zeits drops back

Monsalve briefly got a small gap on the descent but as they again hit flatter terrain, he decided to wait for the rest of the group. At the same time, Zeits was asked to wait for the peloton where he started to work with Kangert.

 

With 30km to go, the gap was only 3.20 and there was no cooperation in the front group. Meanwhile, the peloton was riding very fast and they quickly picked up a big group with Pellizotti, Montaguti, Haga, Grmay, Kochetkov, Zardini, Finetto, Courteille and Stortoni. Moments later they crossed  the finish line to start the finishing circuit and it was here Formolo made the winning move.

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