Giro d'Italia 2024 stage four preview - a sprint by the coast

A Milan-Sanremo esque finish should offer the sprinters another opportunity

Date: Tuesday May 7, 2024
Distance: 190km
Start location: Acqui Terme
Finish location: Andora
Start time: 12:30 CET
Finish time (approx): 17:14 CET

There has been a very noticeable change in the way bike racing is conducted in recent years. Races are faster and more aggressive, the old adages about the foolishness of making moves too early have been made a mockery of, and winning moves are coming earlier and earlier. The revolution has partly been led by a generation of uncommonly gifted and naturally aggressive superstars such as Tadej Pogačar, Mathieu van der Poel and Remco Evenepoel, but has influenced the way everybody from all tiers in the hierarchy of the peloton, in what has been a general culture shift. 

The consequences of this new way of racing are especially apparent in the changed dynamics of the Milan-Sanremo, the race which serves as a template for today’s Giro d'Italia stage, that features many of the same roads along the Ligurian coast. This race has traditionally been known as ‘the sprinters’ Classic’, so much so that in 2014 the organisers planned to add a new climb to tilt the balance away from them. Yet, even though those plans were scrapped due to feasibility, and the race actually now has less climbing in it than before, the sprinters no longer even get a look in and are routinely overwhelmed by attackers, with the last large sprint finish occurring way back at the 2016 edition. 

All that said, today’s stage does still look like one most likely to come down to a bunch sprint. That’s because it isn't a facsimile of Milan-Sanremo, finishing not so far westwards along the Ligurian coast in the tourist beach town of Andora rather than Sanremo, and therefore not featuring the Poggio and Cipressa climbs that puncheurs use to distance the sprinters at that race. The final 60km of this stage from Savona to Andora is a stretch that is generally spent ambling at a steady pace during the third quarter of Milan-Sanremo, featuring not a single categorised climb on the coastal roads. 

The main obstacle for the sprinters comes earlier in the stage, while the riders are still inland, where they have to climb the category three Colle del Melogno. Rising at a modest 4.3% but lasting a testing 8.8km, there’s an opportunity there for some teams to try and take out of contention some of their sprinter rivals by setting a fierce pace up it to drop them out of the peloton. With a whole 100km between its summit and the finish, it would take some serious commitment to do so though, and although there is another small climb (Capo Mele) waiting for them inside the final 5km, its average gradient of about 5% for just over a kilometre shouldn't be too tricky for most sprinters to survive unscathed.

Stage profile sourced via the Giro d'Italia website


Given the chaos that ensued on stage three – another expected sprint day that involved a late climb – it's far from impossible that we once again see race leader Tadej Pogačar dart off in a late attack to try and win the stage.

But the shortness of the climb and the fairly untechnical run-in to the finish will play into the hands of the sprint teams, so a bunch finish seems the most likely prospect.

Tim Merlier (Soudal–Quick-Step) triumphed in the pandemonium of stage three, despite not really having much team support left into the final few hundred metres. He'll be high on confidence after logging that first win, and the way he pipped Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek) to the line exemplified a sprinter at the top of his game right now.

But the faster final of this parcours may be more suited to Milan given his extraordinary power. There was little between him and Merlier on the line, and a less taxing entry to the sprint will perhaps play in his favour.

The same could be said for the likes of Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Caleb Ewan (Jayco-Alula). Both will be disappointed at their finishes outside the top-10 on stage three, but both will potentially fare better on a less draining parcours.

Olav Kooij (Visma-Lease a Bike) wasn't quite able to put himself in the mix on his Grand Tour sprint debut as he has done in smaller races in recent months, but the Dutchman has more than enough quality to win amongst a field like this and will hope to better his sixth place.

Ethan Vernon (Israel-Premier Tech), Jenthe Biermans (Arkéa-B&B Hotels), and (in the absence of Fabio JakobsenTobias Lund Andresen (DSM-Firmenich-PostNL) all impressed with top-10 finishes in the first sprint, while Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty) may be one of the few sprinters hoping for equal levels of chaos to improve on his third place finish.

Fernando Gaviria (Movistar), Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious), and Alberto Dainese (Tudor Pro Cycling) are other possible contenders if things go their way.


While he missed out to the impressive Merlier in the opening sprint, we think this particular finish will be one for Jonathan Milan.

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