The 221-kilometer stage featured a hilly second half, including short but steep climbs with maximum gradients of 19 percent, that caused the peloton to explode as the steep gradients took their toll.
After a 20-kilometer fight to go clear, Rosskopf attacked with nine other riders to form the day’s breakaway and, with no team assuming control of the chase, their advantage quickly grew to more than nine minutes at the halfway mark of the stage.
With many kilometers still to race and a demanding finale, the peloton didn’t start to eat into the breakaway’s advantage until the final 90 kilometers when the breakaway started the first categorized climb of the day.
The fast pace set in the bunch caused many riders to drop and saw Rosskopf’s advantage quickly reduced to under two minutes with 50-kilometers remaining before the catch was eventually made with 38 kilometers to go on the second categorized climb, the Monteguiduccio.
The steep gradient immediately caused what was left of the peloton to explode and a select group of General Classification contenders to form in front.
Van Avermaet put in a huge effort to make the selection but the pace was too high for the Belgian and he dropped back to the remnants of the peloton.
Ahead, Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Pro Team) attacked solo and left an eight-rider chase group in between him and the peloton while behind, Rosskopf and Michael Schär took control of the chase and began to bring the group back, eventually making the catch on the first passage of the finish line.
Lutsenko powered on one-minute ahead and on the second-to-last climb, Van Avermaet was able to dig deep and maintain contact with the group on the descent, to start the final lap in the first chase group behind Lutsenko.
On the final climb, Van Avermaet settled into his own pace and although he wasn’t able to stay with the group as the race favorites started to attack each other, he continued to ride with a solid tempo to cross the line just behind the group of GC favorites, around one minute behind stage winner Lutsenko who sprinted to the win from a group of four riders.
Quotes from the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
“It was a super hard day. I could not do anything better I think. I was always up there, I tried to do as good as possible, but the stage was just over my limit and I’m too heavy for these climbs. I’m quite happy with how the legs were feeling and I think that’s one of the most important things. It was good to have Joey in the breakaway and then he did a good job after the climb, when the eight guys had gone clear, to close the gap. It was really important to have him there. I tried to hang on as long as possible on the last two climbs but I felt that it was too hard to go for a victory.”
“I think tomorrow will be more or less the same. It will be hard to follow on the steep climbs but I will try to do the same as today, always good positioning the whole day, and then hopefully, I can do a good result and have the same feeling in the legs.”
“It was definitely more of a fight to make the breakaway today than in the last few days. It helped a lot to have the other guys in the team jumping as well and following other moves. It’s so much easier to try to pick the right move and take some of the chance out of it when you have other guys trying as well. So, to have all of the guys up there at the start really helped make it possible. I thought there was a good chance we would get caught even when we had more than nine minutes. I knew the finale was hard and that it started really early with the steep climbs. We did the first one with around 100 kilometers left in the stage I think. That’s always hard on a breakaway. As soon as we got there, everyone starts hurting and skipping pulls, but we kind of expected that to happen. The idea was just to anticipate the race and have an extra guy in front with Greg near the finish.”
“I’m feeling really good. Getting out in front of the race is always better for me than trying to fight for position on these really narrow roads. We got caught with two or three kilometers left of this steep climb which is definitely earlier than I would have hoped because then you just risk getting dropped straight out of the front group. I am really happy that I was able to accelerate with the front group and stay there over the top, and go to work immediately on the descent and run into the finishing circuit.”
Valerio Piva, Sports Director:
“We did the best we could today. We wanted to have a rider in the breakaway and Joey was able to form part of this ten-rider move that went clear after about 20 kilometers. They had a really big gap as none of the teams took responsibility for the chase straight away but with such a long stage, and a really hard final, they were able to bring the advantage down quite quickly once the race reached the steep climbs. Greg did a really good job today, he could not have done more, and we saw a great team effort from the guys to put Greg in a good position and chase when we needed to. We did everything we could to be there but it was clear that today was more of a day for the climbers and General Classification contenders.”
Stage Four: Foligno > Fossombrone (221km)
Top 3: 1. Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Pro Team), 2. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), 3, Adam Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT)
Photos: Cor Vos / Stefano Sirotti