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Giro d'Italia 2014: Stage 4

Welcome to the Cyclingnews coverage of the Giro d'Italia stage 4 from Giovinazzo to Bari.

The Giro d'Italia has returned to Italy and we're around 20 minutes from the start of stage four from Giovinazzo to Bari.

The big news is of course that Marcel Kittel will not start today's stage. The German sprinter has fallen ill with a fever. We will bring you all the information as soon as we have it.

Kittel was the winner of stages 2 and 3 and he was the favourite to take victory today. Here is the full story.

Without Kittel, the door is now open for the other sprinters to get a win. Check out our video of the top 5 sprinters to watch for our thoughts on who could win today, right here. Alternatively, feel free to tweet us your suggestions at @Cyclingnewsfeed

The riders must have been looking forward to some warm and dry weather after leaving Northern Ireland, but is wet and raining once again over in Italy.

As we said before, this short 112km stage is one for the sprinters. Race leader Michael Matthews will be looking for a good result if he wants to keep onto his maglia rosa. Alessandro Petacchi is only 8 seconds behind him and with 10 seconds available for a victory, Petacchi could potentially take the jersey from him. However, the Italian has not contested a sprint yet, choosing to protect his leader Rigoberto Uran.

We are now only a few minutes away from the roll out in Giovinazzo. The riders are lining up at the start.

The riders have rolled out now, with the jersey wearers leading the peloton. There was no red jersey, with Kittel abandoning this morning.

As we wait for the real start, here is a run down of the GC and how it stands at the moment. The top 10 is dominated by Orica-GreenEdge and Omega Pharma-QuickStep, after their strong performances in the time trial.

 

1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge 10:06:37
2 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:08
3 Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:00:10
4 Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica Greenedge 0:00:14
5 Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Orica Greenedge
6 Svein Tuft (Can) Orica Greenedge
7 Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica Greenedge
8 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:19
9 Pieter Serry (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
10 Serge Pauwels (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team

The main GC contenders are a little further down the standings, with some having more work to do than others. Here's some of those contenders and where they lie in the overall classification.

 

8. Rigoberto Urán (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) +0:19
14. Cadel Evans (BMC) +0:21
27. Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:37
32. Michele Scarponi (Astana) +0:41
59. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +1:09
69. Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) +1:12
109. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) +1:34
116. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +1:47

There are a lot of riders taking it very easy at the back of the peloton. The roads are very slick with the rain and it will be hard to stay out of trouble. Its a short stage and the pace will be fast, so the GC riders will have to be careful.

Today's race finishes with circuits, but Italian media have reported that the final 8 laps will be neutralised if it is still raining at the finish.

The organisers have decided to run the race as normal, but they have been spoken to by a number of experienced riders including Paolini and Scarponi.

102km remaining from 112km

For now, the riders seem to be taking things into their own hands and taking it very easy. No attacks off the front yet.

The peloton is currently being lead by Orica-GreenEdge, with race leader Michael Matthews sitting just behind. They are joined by Ivan Basso and Luca Paolini. The pace is very easy at the moment.

Paolini is currently talking to one of the commisaires as the peloton continues to roll on gently.

The Giro has seen neutralised stages before. Last year, snow caused havoc with the peloton choosing to ride piano over the mountains. In 2009 the peloton decided not to race stage 9 around Milan, saying that the course was too dangerous. Mark Cavendish won on that day.

As the peloton continue to tap out a steady rhythm, why not check out our Giro d'Italia videos including a look at the crucial stages later in the race.

We brought you the news earlier that Marcel Kittel had abandoned the race due to a fever. Cyclingnews spoke to his teammate Tom Veelers at the start, who said this of Kittel's departure.

 

"In the night he got it and we found out in the morning. Apparently his temperature is increasing all the time so it was not smart to start. We're going to give everything for Luka now but this feels like a big loss. To have to quit because of fever is really shit."

Former maglia rosa Svein Tuft is on the front of the peloton, as a couple of Lotto-Belisol riders drop back to the cars. The riders will need plenty of layers today.

According to Italian television, the peloton will ride together until Bari to see the finishing circuit and understand how slippy the roads are. It is expected that the final lap will be neutralised after further talks between the riders, lead by Luca Paolini (Katusha), and in-race director Marco Velo, who rides on a motorbike.

Laurent Pichon (FDJ.fr) has a mechanical. It is a fairly long wheel change, but there is no rush with the peloton not going at any great speed.

Nairo Quintana was one of the GC contenders to lose out during the race start in Northern Ireland. He is currently over a minute down in the classification. Cyclingnews spoke to his team manger Eusebio Unzue, who says the Colombian has the same strength of character as Hinault. You can read the full story here.

Still no action from the peloton. Reports coming through that they could cut down the number of circuits at the finish, to fit to TV schedules.

88km remaining from 112km

The slowest time schedule has the peloton finishing in just over an hour, but with 88 kilometres still to go that is not going to happen.

87km remaining from 112km

A lot of talking in the peloton, perhaps some discussions on how they're going to proceed. Some rain capes coming off, as the pace picks up a little bit.

If the riders do contest the finish it's likely to be a bunch sprint. Who do you think will be the victor today? Tweet us at @Cyclingnewsfeed and tell us your thoughts.

Thomas De Gendt (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) has joined the GreenEdge riders on the front of the peloton. He's working for Rigoberto Urán, who is currently the top GC contender after the grande partenza in Belfast.

Joaquim Rodríguez was arguably the biggest loser in Northern Ireland. Katusha had a nightmare in the team time trial, leaving the Spaniard with a lot of work to put himself back in contention. His teammate Luca Paolini told Cyclingnews that Rodríguez will be looking to make the most of the bonus seconds awarded at the stage finishes. You can read the full story here.

Thanks to @jollygoodvelo who reminded us that stage 4 of the 2011 Giro d'italia was neutralised after the death of Wouter Weylandt the previous day. The Leopard team road across the line together alongside Weylandt's good friend Tyler Farrar.

Farrar is in the race this year. He's had two 10th places in the sprints so far. Can he do something today? After Garmin-Sharp's disaster of a team time trial, he and Ryder Hesjedal are the teams only chances for victory at the Giro d'Italia.

76km remaining from 112km

The riders have completed a total of 34 kilometres and have made the turn back towards the coast and Bari. White jersey wearer Luke Durbridge is on the front of the peloton.

As the peloton continues on together, why not have a look at our video channel. Make sure to subscribe to see the latest videos hot from the race and have a look at our Giro d'Italia playlist.

73km remaining from 112km

Only a kilometre more until the riders hit the finishing circuit in Bari. The road is looking a lot dryer, will we see them race?

The riders are on the circuit now and the pace immediately goes up.

Bad time for Luca Paolini to have a puncture, but he's quickly back on the bike and chasing on.

69km remaining from 112km

Bari hosted the Giro d'Italia start back in 1990. Gianni Bugno won on that day, beating Thierry Mari by 3 seconds. Bugno went on to win two more stages and take the overall classification. He also won Milan-San Remo that same year.

Finnish champion Jussi Vaikkenen has a mechanical problem. He has a saddle adjustment on the move.

The other big Kittel news of late was the fan selfie. The fan in question was an Irish rider with the Nicolas Roche development team. After a lot of furore on twitter, he sent an apology to the German. You can read it here.

66km remaining from 112km

The riders get their first view of the finish line. It gives the sprinters a chance to see what will greet them. The right hand corner 900 metres from the line could cause problems.

GreenEdge continue to ride on the front. The pace is rising ever so slightly as the road begins to get dryer. We may not have had any racing, but we should be in for an exciting finish.

With the return to italy, we could see the first Italian winner of this year's race. Elia Viviani has been in strong form and the departure of Marcel Kittel makes him one of the favourites today. Ben Swift and Nacer Bouhanni could spoil his party though. What are your thoughts, who will win today. Tweet us at @Cyclingnewsfeed or @SadhbhOS and tell us and we might post it here.

We have a number of big names doing blogs for us during the Giro d'italia including the Eagle of Toledo himself, Federico Bahamontes. Aptly for today, he believes that the weather is the biggest obstacle for the Giro d'Italia.

57km remaining from 112km

Michael Matthews will be looking for a stage win and to keep hold of his maglia rosa today. The Australian spoke to Cyclingnews and told us his thoughts on wearing the famed jersey. You can watch it here.

Luke Durbridge tests out the corners, but decides it's still too wet and gives the time out sign - a la Fabian Cancellara in the Tour de France a few years ago.

54km remaining from 112km

Despite Durbridge saying it's too early, the roads are drying very quickly and the rain capes have come off.

Paolo Tiralongo is now talking to the in-race director about the conditions.

More of the experienced Italian riders are taking it in turns to talk to the in-race director. Alessandro Petacchi and Luca Paolini also ride up to the front.

A very expressive Matthews is talking to Alessandro Petacchi. The consensus seems to be against racing for now. We've still got 51km to go.

The Giro d'Italia has actually finished in Bari on 18 previous ocassions. The first time was in 1911 and was won by Carlo Galetti. Jacques Anquetil won here in 1961.

Manuel Quinziato of BMC doesn't seem happy with this neutralisation and has a discussion with pink jersey wearer Michael Matthews, before shouting at his teammates. He wants to get racing.

47km remaining from 112km

The riders still have five more passages across the finish line before the final sprint to the line. Reports coming through that the timings will be taken on the penultimate passage across the line. Leaving the sprinters and their teams to race the final lap.

Bernhard Eisel has called the commisaire back and wants to talk to him. Eisel is a UCI rider rep and one of the most respected in the peloton.

Race radio chief has told Italian television is that due to the risk of adverse weather conditions, the race will be neutralised with one lap to go and times taken for the overall classification. No time bonuses will be awarded.

The lack of time bonuses means that Michael Matthews will definitely keep hold of the maglia rosa for another day. He was at risk from Alessandro Petacchi, who was only 8 seconds behind him in the general classification.

The pace has picked up slightly at the riders near the line for the fourth time today. Svein Tuft on the front of the peloton at the moment.

41km remaining from 112km

Remember you can see some of our picks for the sprints in our Top 5 sprinters to watch video. Don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel too.

40km remaining from 112km

The peloton are now stung out in a long line.  The riders are obviously feeling more confident in the corners. Its is a much safer way to ride on this type of street circuit.

37km remaining from 112km

Nacer Bouhanni is currently sat right on the back of the peloton. If there is a crash before the finish, that could spell the end of his chances.

Samuel Sanchez is another of our bloggers during the Giro d'Italia. He will be shepherding Cadel Evans through the mountains. Read his first blog for us here.

The riders have crossed the line for the fifth time today and Elia Viviani takes the intermediate sprint points.

Viviani now moves into the lead of the points competition, putting him into the red jersey.

31km remaining from 112km

There seems to have been some confusion in the peloton. While there are no time bonuses being awarded today, points are available for the riders. Viviani began today one point behind Swift in the classification.

After the short excitement of the intermediate sprint. Orica-GreenEdge take to the front of the peloton again.

A reminder that we spoke to pink jersey wearer Michael Matthews earlier. He told us about his time in the maglia rosa and his plans for the coming days. Watch it here.

28km remaining from 112km

In three kilometres time, the peloton will cross the line for the sixth time. There will be two more laps from there before the times will be taken for the general classification. It is then up to the sprinters to duke it out for the victory.

The peloton have been riding for two hours now. They should have finished some time ago, but the neutralisation means that they've still got just over 25km remaining.

Sky are now moving to the front of the peloton with Orica-GreenEdge. Their man Ben Swift finished second to Marcel Kittel in Dublin and is one of the favourites to take victory today.

24km remaining from 112km

Three laps remaining for the peloton.

More teams coming up to the front. Tinkoff-Saxo hovering just behind GreenEdge. They've got two GC contenders to protect here, Nicolas Roche and Rafal Majka.

21km remaining from 112km

We can see a lot of general classification teams coming near the front. With around 1.5 laps until the time is taken for the GC, they are looking to keep their riders safe.

Alberto Timmer gets two wheel changes. Perhaps it would have been quicker to change the whole bike. He and his Giant-Shimano teammates will be working for Luka Mezgec now, after Marcel Kittel left the race this morning.

If you missed the news about Kittel's departure, you can read it all here.

Orica-GreenEdge still have control of the front of the peloton. They've done almost all of the work during this stage, not that they've had to mark any escape attempts. Two more laps remain for the riders.

15km remaining from 112km

At the end of this lap the riders will get the bell and the times will be taken for the general classification. Expect a few of the GC riders to drop towards the back, as they try to keep out of trouble.

13km remaining from 112km

Bouhanni is back in the cars, which have all moved over and out of his way. Not a good time for him to be back there. It looks like he's had a bike change.

Bouhanni has been joined by Pichon, as the rest of the team begin to filter back through the peloton. He's going to use a lot of vital energy getting back to the peloton.

Pichon and Bouhanni get a telling off for slipstreaming behind their team car. The car has moved away and they are out in the wind now.

They've now moved themselves behind the Belkin team car, who seem all too happy to help them out. This is tense stuff for the Frenchman. They're going at a fair lick as they try to get back onto the peloton.

10km remaining from 112km

Up front, the peloton are nearing the penultimate passage of the finish line, they are about to receive the bell.

Bouhanni has been joined by a second teammate. There are now three of them back in the cars. The back of the peloton is tantalisingly close.

The FDJ riders pass the team car and they get told to calm down, they don't need any crashes now as they make it to the back of the peloton.

GC riders take to the front as the peloton get the bell.

The peloton is strung out as they cross the line. All the GC riders crossed the line safely. Orica-GreenEdge are still on the front and they ramp up the pace. They want victory for Michael Mathews.

Matthews is the fourth man in the bunch, with Omega Pharma-QuickStep sitting behind him.

6km remaining from 112km

Sky are now moving up on both sides of the GreenEdge train. Can Swift take victory today?

If Bouhanni, Swift or Viviani win today it will be their first grand tour victory.

4km remaining from 112km

Puccio goes off the front with a Bardiani rider. He looks over his shoulder and sees the peloton is no longer behind him, but he continues to attack.

The Bardiani rider is Nicola Boem. The two riders are quickly caught by Cannondale who are now on the front.

3km remaining from 112km

It looks like Matthews isn't going to contest the sprint. he has dropped to the back of the peloton. His pink jersey is safe.

The rain has begun to fall again and some riders have crashed.

Giant-Shimano are on the front of the peloton, they're going for victory with Luka Mezgec

There are a number of Cannondale riders down. No confirmation is Viviani is among them. Lotto and Garmin also involved.

The peloton has split and Giant Shimano seem to be the only team on the front. Ferrari and Nizzolo have managed to hold onto them.

Nacer Bouhanni wins the sprint

Bouhanni managed to make the back of the front group in the final kilometre and made use of the Giant-Shimano train to launch his sprint

Veelers looked like he had the victory, but Bouhanni used his superior power to get past the Giant-Shimano rider. Giacomo Nizzolo came passed Veelers to take second.

Michael Matthews finally crosses the finish line. He was in no rush to get to the finish, with his pink jersey safe.

That is Nacer Bouhanni's first victory in a grand tour and his stock will certainly rise with that. His contract runs out with FDJ at the end of the year and he's indicated that he might be on the hunt for a different team.

French media speculated earlier this week that Bouhanni would replace Sagan at Cannondale if the Slovakian was to leave at the end of the year.

A very muddy looking Michael Matthews sits down after the stage. He has this to say about the neutralisation.

"From the start it was really slipper. Straight away we had a chat in the bunch and decided to neutralise the race. It's a long tour and we all need to stay safe out there.

"It's totally different Ireland is a country where it always rains and the roads are used to the changing conditions. "

Here is what Nacer Bouhanni had to say after the stage.

"I thought that I would never get back onto the peloton, but the team did very well to get me back on. In the final straight I had to give everything and fortunately I won."

You can read the race report and see all the pictures from this stage right here.

Here is the top 10 from the stage today

 

1 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ.fr
2 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek Factory Racing
3 Tom Veelers (Ned) Team Giant-Shimano
4 Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida
5 Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale
6 Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
7 Kenny De Haes (Bel) Lotto Belisol
8 Luka Mezgec (Slo) Team Giant-Shimano
9 Bert De Backer (Bel) Team Giant-Shimano
10 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Neri Sottoli - Yellow Fluo

There were no changes in the GC today. Here is how it currently stands.

 

1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge 12:28:43
2 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:08
3 Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:00:10
4 Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica Greenedge 0:00:14
5 Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Orica Greenedge
6 Svein Tuft (Can) Orica Greenedge
7 Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica Greenedge
8 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:19
9 Pieter Serry (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
10 Serge Pauwels (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team

That's it for live coverage of the Giro d'Italia stage 4. Stick with Cyclingnews for all the latest from the race. We will also have live coverage of stage 3 of the Tour of California later today.

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