The stars of the fourth stage of the Giro d’Italia to Lago Laceno were Aurélien Paret-Peintre (AG2R Citroen) and Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM). After a long day out in the stage break, Paret-Peintre won the stage, while Leknessund took the Maglia Rosa. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) was among the breakaway riders, and he collected the King of the Mountain points to extend his lead in the blue jersey battle. Remco Evenepoel and his Soudal-QuickStep squad let the breakaway seize the lead in the race. Evenepoel is currently second overall with a time of 28 seconds, and Paret-Peintre is third with a time of 30 seconds.
The Passo delle Crocelle (7.2km at 5.1%) came after a fast 50 km of racing but only heightened the tension in the race and the determination of the attacks. Every move was chased down by a rival team, again and again, as the riders rolled through the hills to the southwest of Venosa. For a moment, Evenepoel was in a chase group, then João Almeida was forced to chase with several teammates.
Aurelien Paret-Peintre wins the stage
The long descent, like much of the first half of the stage, raced in the rain, increasing the riders’ difficulties. Paret-Peintre and Leknessund emerged from the seven-rider breakaway on the climb to Lago Laceno, with the Frenchman winning the sprint after Leknessund gave his everything in the hope of taking the race lead. Evenepoel was relieved of all podium duties when Leknessund took the best young rider’s white jersey. When Paret-Peintre launched an attack towards the top of the hill, he sensed he could win the stage and dug deep to catch Leknessund.
“My main objective this year was the Giro; I just trained really hard for today, for these three weeks,” Paret-Peintre explained. “It’s super special to be in pink,” Leknessund said, emotional and delighted. That was the goal before the stage, but as everyone knows, it’s difficult. Cycling is not so simple. To actually make it is unbelievable.”
Under grey skies with anxiety and rain in the air, the cyclists pedalled into centre Venosa to sign up. The attacks began as soon as the race director dropped the flag to begin the stage on the outskirts of Venosa and continued for the next two hours. The cyclists rolled through the hills southwest of Venosa, with numerous riders attempting to get into the early break and win the stage.
The breakaway was challenging to make, but the AG2R Citroën rider won the stage, saying, “It was a perfect day for me. The breakaway was extremely difficult to execute. After that, till the end, was quite tough but I am really pleased.” Evenepoel and the other overall competitors finished 2:01 seconds behind Paret-Peintre and Leknessund, fulfilling the Norwegian’s desire.
Andreas Leknessund takes the Maglia Rosa
As a result, Leknessund is only the second Norwegian in history to win the Maglia Rosa. A Norwegian is leading the Giro d’Italia 42 years after Knut Knudsen. “I obviously went for the stage and knew that the pink was possible,” an emotional Leknessund explained. “I tried to drop Aurélien Paret-Peintre, but he came back on the descent, and my legs were killing me,” the Norwegian confessed. “It’s very special to be dressed in pink. That was the goal before the stage, but as everyone knows, it’s tricky.