Giro d'Italia 2014: Bouhanni wins stage 4

Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) won the sprint in the centre of Bari after a series of late crashes and a rider protest forced race officials to neutralize the final lap of stage 4 of the Giro d'Italia.

The riders were worried that rain would make the city centre finishing circuit very slippery and rode slowly for much of the stage until it was confirmed that times for the overall classification would be taken with one lap and 8.3km to go. Their worries proved right, with riders tumbling in the final corners after a rain shower turned the roads into an ice rink.

Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) did not contest the sprint but retained the race leader's pink jersey. Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) did not start the stage after coming down with a fever.

Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) was second in the sprint, with Tom Veelers (Giant-Shimano) third. Veelers started his sprint early after teammate Luka Mezgec was slowed by a mechanical problem in the finishing straight.

Elia Viviani (Cannondale) had hoped to take advantage of the absence of Kittel. His teammates took control of the peloton in the final lap but then five riders slid out when the rain soaked a section of the circuit. Viviani tried to close gap but lost contact in sight of the line and finished fifth. It was Bouhanni's first stage victory in a Grand Tour.

"I'm super happy to have won. I punctured with two laps to go and I was scared of crashing near the finishing line. It was like an ice rink but I managed to win," he said.

"When I punctured I though I had little chance of doing the sprint but I had a great team that helped me get back on. When we got back on, I told myself 'Allez! Lets do this sprint.'"

"I think the roads were very slippery and dangerous on the last lap. It was a pity but that's racing. I almost crashed twice and my back wheel slipped on the last corner. However we've got to be ready for the bad weather in the mountains too." 

No risks in the rain

The first stage in Italy following the transfer from Ireland was the shortest of this year's race at 112km but it took far longer to complete than scheduled due to the rider protest.

Before the start in Giovinazzo, riders scrutinised the skies and weather forecasts, worried that the roads would become dangerous in the rain. The finishing circuit in Bari included numerous corners on asphalt that had been polished smooth by the constant traffic.  

The stage started on time but different riders took turns to speak to race director Mauro Vegni and his motorbike assistant Marco Velo. The riders wanted the final lap of the circuit to be neutralized, with times taken for the overall classification a lap before the sprinters fought for the stage victory.  

Luca Paolini (Katusha), Cadel Evans (BMC), Alessandro Petacchi (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and UCI rider representative Bernhard Eisel (Team Sky) all spoke to Vegni or Velo during the stage, with the peloton rolling along at a steady pace without any attempt by riders to breakaway.

The riders continued their go-slow until they reached the finishing circuits and the talks continued. Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge) made a signal of 'time-out' but the riders continued to roll along. The racing only came to life with 42km to go, when race organizer RCS Sport and the UCI commissaries agreed to the peloton's request and agreed to take times with one lap of the 8.3km circuit.

The Orica-GreenEdge team rode on the front, riding tempo to protect Matthews' pink jersey. The only real interruption came for the intermediate sprint after five of the eight laps. Cannondale hit the front and upped the pace, leading out Viviani. He won the sprint ahead of Nizzolo and Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida) and scored 20 points, to become the virtual leader of the red points jersey.  

Orica-GreenEdge returned to the head of the peloton as the laps steadily ticked down, with the only moment of excitement when Bouhanni was forced to make a late chase to get back to the peloton after a mechanical problem. Orica-GreenEdge moved over when the bell rang and the time for the classification was taken with one lap to go.

Cannondale took over again to lead out Viviani but they went down on a wide corner, scattering the sprinters who were fighting for the stage victory.  

At one point four Giant-Shimano riders were leading the race but Bouhanni and other riders got up to them and had the speed and bike skills in the rain to come past them in sight of the line.

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ.fr2:22:06
2Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek Factory RacingRow 1 - Cell 2
3Tom Veelers (Ned) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 2 - Cell 2
4Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-MeridaRow 3 - Cell 2
5Elia Viviani (Ita) CannondaleRow 4 - Cell 2
6Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La MondialeRow 5 - Cell 2
7Kenny De Haes (Bel) Lotto BelisolRow 6 - Cell 2
8Luka Mezgec (Slo) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 7 - Cell 2
9Bert De Backer (Bel) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 8 - Cell 2
10Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Neri Sottoli - Yellow FluoRow 9 - Cell 2
11Mauro Finetto (Ita) Neri Sottoli - Yellow FluoRow 10 - Cell 2
12Leonardo Fabio Duque (Col) ColombiaRow 11 - Cell 2
13Marco Frapporti (Ita) Androni GiocattoliRow 12 - Cell 2
14Eugenio Alafaci (Ita) Trek Factory RacingRow 13 - Cell 2
15Johan Le Bon (Fra) FDJ.frRow 14 - Cell 2
16Diego Rosa (Ita) Androni GiocattoliRow 15 - Cell 2
17Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Garmin SharpRow 16 - Cell 2
18Oscar Gatto (Ita) CannondaleRow 17 - Cell 2
19Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling TeamRow 18 - Cell 2
20Jeffry Johan Romero Corredor (Col) ColombiaRow 19 - Cell 2
21Jonathan Monsalve (Ven) Neri Sottoli - Yellow FluoRow 20 - Cell 2
22Albert Timmer (Ned) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 21 - Cell 2
23Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Garmin SharpRow 22 - Cell 2
24Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 23 - Cell 2
25Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Trek Factory RacingRow 24 - Cell 2
26Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) FDJ.frRow 25 - Cell 2
27Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 26 - Cell 2
28Georg Preidler (Aut) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 27 - Cell 2