Aussie star ‘a little stressed’ but retains Giro lead
AUSSIE Rohan Dennis has retained the overall lead with a one-second advantage over Dutch defending champion Tom Dumoulin after stage four of the Giro d'Italia.
After three opening days in Israel and a rest day, the Giro finally reached Italian soil, with Belgian Tim Wellens living up to expectations when he won the 202km treacherous ride from Catania to Caltagirone in Sicily with a steep finish.
But Dennis (BMC) managed to stay close to leaders to ensure he kept hold of the pink jersey.
"Of course I want to stay in the front," he said.
"It's great to keep the jersey for a little bit longer, the team did everything possible to put me in that position. It was a little bit stressed, but not so much.
"It's been hectic with a lot of corners and a lot of public in the finale.
"It was a question of staying out of trouble from the last 10 kilometers until the bottom of the last climb. It's pretty common that I've lost the leader's jersey after one day in other Grand Tours. To retain the Maglia Rosa today is big for me."
Lotto-Soudal rider Wellens was on the right end of a late split and he sustained his effort on an 800m climb up an average gradient of almost 10 per cent to the finish line.
He beat Canada's Michael Woods, who was seconds ahead of Italian Enrico Bataglin.
Britain's Chris Froome, who is under investigation for a failed doping test in last year's Vuelta, finished 21 seconds behind Wellens, pushing the four-time Tour de France champion down to 20th overall and 55 seconds behind Dennis.
Froome, who is attempting to win his third straight Grand Tour, already struggled in the opening time trial after a training crash.
"I wasn't in great position getting into the (finishing) climb," said Froome, who still has bruises on his right leg.
"But I'm getting better and better each day after the crash."
Portugal's Jose Goncalves, one of the overall contenders, suffered a couple of mechanical problems in the finale and dropped out of the top 10.
There are two more difficult stages in Sicily - including an arduous ascent up Mount Etna - before the race heads over to mainland Italy and climbs up the peninsula to the defining climbs in the Alps.