Giro d'Italia 2014: Riders play it safe as treacherous conditions spoil stage four

Numerous competitors were sent tumbling during the race for the line on roads made slick by torrential rain

Torrential rain marred the resumption of the Giro d'Italia as Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni won stage four in Bari.

After Monday's rest day and the transfer from Dublin to southern Italy, the 112km route from Giovinazzo concluded with an eight-lap circuit in Bari, which was neutralised due to a rider protest.

Fears over the treacherous conditions were proven when the race for the line on the last of the eight laps led to numerous riders tumbling on the slick roads.

Bouhanni of the FDJ.fr team recovered from a late mechanical problem to launch his bid for the line off the Giant-Shimano sprint train – without Marcel Kittel, who withdrew from the Giro due to illness – and take victory ahead of Trek's Giacomo Nizzolo and Tom Veelers of Giant-Shimano.

Australian Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) did not contest the sprint but retained the race leader's pink jersey. Matthews explained the reasons for the lack of racing afterwards: "From the start it was really slippery.

"Straight away we had a chat in the bunch and decided to neutralise the race. It's a long tour and we all need to stay safe out there."

One of the pre-race favourites, BMC's 2011 Tour de France champion Cadel Evans, wrote on Twitter: "Thanks for understanding and anticipating the conditions @giroditalia. Sorry, but if we can't stay on our bikes... we can't race. #goodsense."

Despite the circumstances, Bouhanni was thrilled with a first Grand Tour win. "I thought I would never get back onto the peloton, but the team did very well," he said. "In the final straight I had to give everything and fortunately I won."

In the United States, Bradley Wiggins took the overall lead in the Tour of California after he claimed victory on the second stage time trial late on Monday. The Team Sky rider took take the place of Omega Pharma-Quick Step sprinter Mark Cavendish, who won the opening stage.

PA

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