Formolo wins solo on stage 4 of the Giro, Clarke takes the overall lead

by Matt de Neef

Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Garmin) has taken the biggest victory of his young career, winning stage 4 of the 2015 Giro d’Italia after a solo move from the lead group in the closing kilometres.

The 22-year-old Italian attacked just before the day’s final ascent, with 14km left to race, and was able to hold off an elite chase group to win by 22 seconds.

Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) won the small bunch sprint for second place, moving into the overall lead in the process, while Jonathan Montsalve (Southeast) rounded out the podium.

Simon Clarke now in the overall lead, but looks to have mistakenly celebrated the stage win without knowing Formolo was up the road.
Simon Clarke now in the overall lead, but looks to have mistakenly celebrated the stage win without knowing Formolo was up the road.

“The final 500m were absolutely incredible. The noise of the crowd made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck,” Formolo said after the stage. “I only knew I’d won the stage 100m from the finish line.”

The stage didn’t look particularly challenging on paper but a handful of tough uncategorised climbs and an impressive display of strength from Astana saw the race torn apart.

Formolo had been part of a 29-rider escape group that led the peloton by nearly 10 minutes at one point, the lead and the size of the lead group gradually being whittled down throughout the stage. Formolo’s move came from a group of 14 riders, the young Italian able to hold off the chase group and the peloton to register Cannondale-Garmin’s first WorldTour win of the season.

How it unfolded

Another beautiful day awaited the riders as they began stage 4 in Chiavari with 150km and three categorised climbs ahead of them. The famous Cinque Terre region would provide a stunning backdrop for the race which took the riders in a south-easterly direction towards La Spezia.

The first of the day’s categorised climbs, a third-category ascent to Colle de Velva, awaited the peloton inside the first 15km of the stage, with several riders trying to forge clear and establish the day-long breakaway. Over the course of the 14.2km climb, a large lead group began to form, its size fluctuating as the climb wore on.

Eduardo Zardini (Bardiani-CSF) broke clear of the still-forming lead group near the top of the climb, in search of KOM points, and was joined over the top by Franco Pelizotti (Androni Giocattoli) as an increasingly large chase group massed between them and the peloton.

Pelizotti and Zardini were soon caught by the chasing group and by the time the riders were inside the final 100km of the stage, there were 16 riders at the head of the race nearly 10 minutes clear of the peloton.

Astana’s Dario Cataldo bridged to the lead group a short time later and on the slopes of the uncategorised 8km climb to the Passo del Bracco another chase group made contact with the front of the race. With 81 lumpy kilometres left to race, the race was being led by a group some 29 riders strong, among them Davide Formolo, Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge), Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Franco Pellizotti (Androni Giocattoli).

Giro d'Italia 2015 stage - 4

Despite having the dangerous Kreuziger in the lead group, Tinkoff-Saxo did much of the chasing in the peloton, reducing the deficit to inside nine minutes by the time the bunch reached the Passo del Bracco, halfway through the race.

The size of the lead group ensured little cooperation at the front of the race and attacks came frequently. This aggression, combined with the challenging terrain, saw roughly 10 riders dropped from the large lead group before Amael Moinard (BMC) split the race further, attacking just before the long descent to Levanto. This move prompted a chase from Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani-CSF), Martijn Kezer (LottoNL-Jumbo), Chad Haga (Giant-Alpecin) and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar).

At the intermediate sprint point in Levanto, Colbrelli took maximum points, followed by Keizer and Moinard, before the road tilted upwards into the second categorised climb of the day.

That climb of the Passo del Termine — a 10km ascent at an average of 6% — saw the formation of a seven-rider lead group from the remnants of the large, earlier breakaway: Andrey Zeits (Astana), Colbrelli, Moinard, Andrey Amador (Movistar), Salvatore Puccio (Sky), Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal) and Davide Formolo.

Back in the peloton, Astana had come to the front to increase the tempo, their efforts bringing the seven leaders’ advantage to inside eight minutes and thinning the peloton down to just 19 riders. Of those 19, five were from Astana (including GC favourite Fabio Aru) while Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador only had one teammate (Michael Rogers) and Sky’s Richie Porte only had two teammates for company. Rigoberto Uran, meanwhile, was all alone, left without any of his Etixx-Quick-Step teammates in the reduced peloton.

Overnight leader Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) was one of many riders unable to match the pace of Astana and dropped out of contention, his time in the maglia rosa coming to an end.

After Sonny Colbrelli was dropped from the seven-rider lead group, Davide Formolo was the first of the six leaders over the Passo del Termine — with just inside 50km to race — followed by Amador and Puccio. A chase group containing Roman Kreuziger and Simon Clarke followed 26 seconds behind the six leaders, while the Astana-led “peloton” crested the Passo del Termine just 5:53 behind the lead group.

The six leaders were caught by the chasers with 40km remaining, creating another big group at the head of affairs. On one of the stage’s many unclassified climbs, with roughly 35km to go, Jonathan Monsalve (Southeast) jumped clear of the lead group building a slim advantage. The hard chasing of Astana, meanwhile, reduced the 19-rider peloton’s deficit to just 4:20 with 32km left to race.

Monsalve was brought back into a lead group of 14 riders with 30km to go and behind him Astana continued to do significant damage. The gap was down to 2:40 with 25.5km to the finish and Astana’s numerical advantage in the peloton only improved when Andrey Zeits dropped back from the lead group to help the chase, making it six Astana riders in a peloton of just 20.

The gap was down inside two minutes with 17km left to race and the difference in intensity between the lead group and the Astana-led peloton was easy to see. The leaders looked content to wait for the final climb while Astana continued to drive the pace, a catch appearing imminent.

The leaders crossed the finish line with 15.4km to go, beginning the start of a local lap around La Spezia. David Formolo broke clear of the lead group with 14km to go, just before the start of the 3.4km-long final climb. He was followed a short time later by Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) and Amael Moinard.

Back in the main field Astana continued to drive the pace, albeit with a reduced contingent of four riders, before Fabio Aru put in the first attack from a GC contender so far in this year’s Giro.

Aru’s move came with 10.8km remaining, on the slopes of the final climb to Biassa, and was quickly marked by fellow GC hopefuls Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Richie Porte (Sky). The trio reached and joined the remnants of the lead group with 10.5km to the finish while Formolo continued on alone at the front of the race, being followed by Visconti and Moinard.

Davide Formolo crested the final climb alone, with 9.9km left to race, with Visconti and Moinard reaching the summit 30 seconds later. A second chase group, containing Aru, Contador and Porte followed just 12 seconds later.

Formolo powered on alone, bombing the descent towards La Spezia as Visconti and Moinard were caught by the chasers with 5km to race. Simon Clarke, distanced on the climb, managed to claw his way back to the chase group on the descent.

With 4km to the line Formolo had just 30 seconds over the chasers and when the road flattened out with 2.5km to go, his lead was down to 21 seconds. But the baby-faced Italian was able to hold on for a stirring victory, by far the biggest of his young career.

In the nine-strong chase group, Simon Clarke timed his run to perfection, hitting the front just before the line and throwing his hands in the air in celebration. He would later say in a post-race interview that he knew Formolo was up the road, but his initial reaction seemed to suggest he didn’t.

Giro d'Italia 2015 stage - 4

Regardless, the result sees Clarke become the third Australian Orica-GreenEdge rider to wear the maglia rosa in four days. He is followed in the general classification by teammate Esteban Chaves (+10 seconds) and Tinkoff-Saxo’s Roman Kreuziger (+17 seconds). Alberto Contador, Fabio Aru and Richie Porte are all now in the top 10 on GC, with further changes almost certain on tomorrow’s stage.

Stage 5 of the 2015 Giro d’Italia takes the riders 152km from La Spezia to Abetone featuring two categorised climbs along the way. The second of those climbs is 17.3km long with an average gradient of 5.4% and takes the riders to the finish in Abetone — the first of the summit finishes at this year’s Giro.

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