Riccardo Riccò came close to staking his claim on the slopes the Montevergine di Mercogliano in the Giro d'Italia stage 4. The yellow Saunier Duval-Prodir armada hammered the roads all afternoon, from Salerno to the base of the 17-kilometre ascent.
Riccò was attentive and stayed with the favourites, like Di Luca and Cunego, under a barrage of attacks, highlighted by Mexican Julio Pérez (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare). Saunier then used its final domestique, a super-domestique, Leonardo Piepoli. The rider from Puglia rode an infernal pace to bring back Pérez and place Riccò in with the chance of Montevergine-glory.
Pérez was finished at 800 metres and Di Luca launched at 200 metres.
"Danilo closed me in a little bit on the barriers," noted the 23 year-old to La Gazzetta dello Sport. His team captain Gilberto Simoni and Director Sportif Pietro Algeri had warned Riccò to make his sprint in the middle of the road.
"But Danilo went very strong. I don't not know if I was going to be able to battle him. I made a slight remount," he continued. "For now the second place is fine."
Algeri had guided his team all day from behind in the team car. Once the riders were in the final metres he was off the course and watching from the TV in his team car.
"Those fractions of a second can cost you the stage," he noted of Riccò's sprint. "But Riccò showed he is full of courage."
Riccò was disappointed in coming so close but he knows the Giro will be long. "It would have been better if I would have won," said the rider from Modena. "I will re-try on some other stages. In Genova [stage 10] and the Oropa mountain time trial [stage 13]."
Saunier Duval has unfinished business but can be happy with the display of form by Riccò. The youngster will have to remember why he is at the Giro, which is to help two-time Giro Champion Simoni (15th yesterday, 15" back).
"I went well on the climb. I know that now I will be expected to be there and help Simoni on the hard climbs."