ETNA-NICOLOSI, Sicily — German cyclist Lennard Kamna won Stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia on the slopes of Mount Etna while Juan Pedro Lopez moved into the overall lead as the Italian grand tour returned to home soil.
Kamna, who rides for Bora-Hansgrohe, had time to raise his arms over his head as he crossed the line just ahead of Lopez, who banged his handlebars in frustration.
Both of them had been part of an early breakaway, as was Rein Taaramae, who finished third at the end of the 172-kilometer (107-mile) route from Avola that culminated on the steep climb up the volcano, as the riders faced their first serious test of this year’s race.
“It was a super hard day, especially the last climb. It was really long and really hard,” Kamna said. “I almost thought I lost it when Lopez had more than 30 seconds and I just made it to bridge. Then I tried to recover a little bit for the sprint and it worked out really well.”
It was a second grand tour stage win for the 25-year-old Kamna, who won a stage on the Tour de France two years ago.
Lopez will be able to console himself by taking over the leader’s pink jersey from Mathieu van der Poel, who had worn it since winning the opening stage in Hungary.
The 24-year-old Spanish rider is 39 seconds ahead of Kamna and 58 ahead of Taaramae.
“I’m so happy today for taking the jersey. I don’t believe this moment so I need to enjoy tomorrow, today, and every moment with the jersey,” said Lopez, who rides for Trek-Segafredo.
“I tried to go on the hardest part because there I can make the difference. I tried but Kamna took me in the last 2 or 3 kilometers and we fought for the sprint. I tried to fight for the victory but it was so difficult. But I have the jersey and I’m so happy now.”
Most of the overall contenders crossed the line together although Miguel Angel Lopez – one of the favorites for the stage win and overall victory – pulled out of the Giro after struggling in the hilly opening kilometers of the route with a left hip injury that he sustained earlier in the race.
Tom Dumoulin’s chances of winning a second Giro are all but over. The 2017 champion was dropped on the climb, as was home favorite and two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali, and the Dutch cyclist lost more than six minutes to his rivals.
There was more drama earlier in the day as well, as there were two crashes. Simon Yates was involved in one of them and needed brief treatment but was able to continue.
The stage sparked into life on the approach to Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.
Stefano Oldani set off on a long solo attack but he was passed by Lopez with just over 10 kilometers remaining. Kamna made the catch with 2.5 kilometers to go and the duo worked together before the chase to the line.
Lopez made a mistake in the final corner but Kamna admitted that, with the Spaniard guaranteed the maglia rosa, it was almost as if they “had a silent agreement.”
The Giro stays in Sicily for Wednesday’s fifth stage, a 174-kilometer (108-mile) leg from Messina to Catania that features a category two climb shortly before the halfway point.
The Giro finishes on May 29 in Verona.