Bradley Wiggins loses time in Giro d'Italia stage four

 

Sir Bradley Wiggins slipped down to sixth in the general classification after stage four of the Giro d'Italia, won by Italy's Enrico Battaglin.

Wiggins completed the final climb with his rivals but lost time after being caught behind a crash near the finish.

He lost 17 seconds to overall leader Luca Paolini and is now 34 seconds down on the Italian overall.

Italy's Danilo Di Luca, 37, looked like he might win a long wet stage but was caught by the peloton in the last 100m.

The last 6km of the stage was tackled in heavy rain on slippery roads and included a sharp descent, followed by a flat section before a cobbled road in the home straight.

Team Sky's Rigoberto Uran, who was not affected by the split in the peloton, moved to second overall, with Wiggins falling four places.

Analysis

"For Bradley Wiggins to lose time because of a split in the peloton is not ideal but, in the bigger scheme of things, it is not disastrous because he is still near his main rivals. His loss has basically negated the gain he made in the team time trial.

"Until then, Team Sky had put in a really good ride. They were scared that guys were going to attack and set the tempo to try to nullify that.

"So it was a big surprise to see he had lost time. Brad had looked nervous earlier in the stage but that was because of the weather. Had it been dry, I think we would have seen a few more attacks from the main contenders.

"The cobbles on the home straight were horrendous. The first 10 metres or so they were starting to break up so there were big gaps on them, and there was a big crown as well. That meant if you were in the middle of them, you had to stay there. If you went slightly over to the edge, they cambered off where car wheels have caused a ridge over the years."

However, Wiggins is still in touch with his main rivals: last year's Giro winner, Canada's Ryder Hesjedal, is on the same time in fifth, while fourth-placed Vincenzo Nibali is only three seconds better off.

It was a difficult day in the saddle for all the riders, with two climbs in the pouring rain at the very end of a gruelling 244km slog along the Mediterranean coast in the second-longest stage of this year's Giro.

The remnants of a seven-man breakaway lasted until the top of the first ascent, the third-category Vibo Valentina, when Spain's Miguel Minguez was reeled in with 40km to go.

Nibali suffered a mechanical problem and had to borrow a wheel from a team-mate during the descent, but he regained contact with the bunch by the time the race started up Croce Ferratata, a 12km slog through increasingly dark and gloomy conditions as the rain closed in.

At this stage, Wiggins was sitting pretty, with Team Sky taking over the tempo from Paolini's Katusha team at the front of the bunch.

None of the big names in the hunt for the general classification went on the attack but more breakaway attempts from other riders followed, with 37-year-old Di Luca and unheralded Colombian Robinson Eduardo Chalapud Gomez making what appeared to be a decisive move when they stayed clear at the top of Croce Ferratata.

Di Luca, the 2007 Giro winner, did the majority of the work but was cruelly denied victory in the home straight when he was engulfed by the bunch.

Battaglin timed his attack to perfection after more than six hours in the saddle and crossed the line with his arms aloft.

"I knew that this finale was tailor-made for me," he said. "I knew it was now or never for me to win a stage."

Stage four standings:

1. Enrico Battaglin (Italy) Bardiani Valvole 6 hr 14 min 19 sec

2. Fabio Felline (Italy) Androni Giocattoli SAME TIME

3. Giovanni Visconti (Italy) Movistar

4. Rigoberto Uran (Colombia) Team Sky

5. Arnold Jeannesson (France) FDJ

6. Cadel Evans (Australia) BMC Racing

7. Benat Intxausti (Spain) Movistar

8. Ryder Hesjedal (Canada) Garmin

9. Robert Kiserlovski (Croatia) RadioShack

10. Luca Paolini (Italy) Katusha

Selected others:

48. Bradley Wiggins (Britain) Team Sky +17 sec

General classification standings:

1. Luca Paolini (Italy) Katusha 15 hrs 18 min 51 sec

2. Rigoberto Uran (Colombia) Team Sky +17 sec

3. Benat Intxausti (Spain) Movistar +26 sec

4. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Astana +31 sec

5. Ryder Hesjedal (Canada) Garmin +34 sec

Selected others:

6. Bradley Wiggins (Britain) Team Sky +34 sec

10. Cadel Evans (Australia) BMC Racing +42sec