French climber Aurelien Paret-Peintre hailed his “perfect day” as he broke away to win stage four of the Giro d’Italia on Tuesday with Andreas Leknessund of Norway taking the overall leader’s pink jersey.
The duo had led the peloton by over five minutes and held on to just enough of that lead on the final sharp climb to the ski resort Lago Laceno for the Norwegian to take the fabled pink jersey held overnight by race favourite Remco Evenepoel.
“It was a dream day, a perfect day for me – the breakaway was super hard to make,” said Paret-Peintre, who rides for AG2R-Citroen.
On the final climb, Leknessund attacked first but Paret-Peintre was able to come back on the flat of the last three kilometres.
“I was patient on the last climb and I think he blew his legs a bit. Afterwards I knew I was faster than him in the sprint,” added the Frenchman.
While Evenepoel took pink on the opening day in a time-trial along the Adriatic coastline, Leknessund, a former Norwegian time-trial champion, trailed him by 1min 18sec and is the new leader due to that effort combined with Tuesday’s escape.
“It’s super special to be in the pink,” said Leknessund. “As everyone knows cycling is not so easy and to actually make it is unbelievable.”
Overall Leknessund leads Evenepoel by 28sec with Paret-Peintre third at 30sec followed by UAE’s Joao Almeida and Jumbo–Visma’s Primoz Roglic.
Evenepoel suffered a late puncture as the peloton rolled through heavy rain into the mountains of the Lucanian Apennines, which his team dealt with swiftly.
The Belgian also had an early scare when his key rival Roglic joined a failed escape whilst the Quick-Step star was stuck at the back.
Evenepoel displayed his trademark confidence after the stage.
“It’s no problem giving up the pink jersey, on Wednesday I’ll be wearing the rainbow one,” he said, referring to the world champion colours he claimed in Australia last season.
“I was relaxed throughout the stage even if it was difficult, high-speed and nervous out there at times.”
On the last climb Evenepoel was isolated from his Quick-Step team, while the yellow Jumbo-Visma shirts and the blue of Ineos had numbers all the way to the last climb.
French veteran Thibaut Pinot remains in the blue king of the mountains jersey with 30 points.
Wednesday’s stage five is a 175km run from Atripalda to Salerno on the Amalfi coast where a mass sprint is expected.