ETNA, Sicily — Slovenian rider Jan Polanc produced a remarkable ride after making an early breakaway to win stage four of the Giro d'Italia on the summit of Mount Etna on Tuesday.
The UAE Team Emirates rider, who also won a mountain stage in the 2015 race, took a solo victory ahead of Ilnur Zakarin of Russia on the 181-kilometer stage from Cefalu with Team Sky's Geraint Thomas in third place.
"It's amazing. Probably nobody expected the breakaway to succeed," Polanc said. "We were only four guys to make it work and we didn't have a big gap for the last climb. It was probably the hardest day of my life. I'm very happy. To repeat the victory I got in 2015 in the first mountain stage is wonderful."
Luxembourg's Bob Jungels replaced Quick-Step teammate Fernando Gaviria as the overall leader and has a six-second advantage over Welshman Thomas. Fellow Briton Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) is four seconds further back, 10 seconds ahead of most of the overall favorites.
"Two days ago, our move in the crosswinds was an intention but not a plan," Jungels said. "This morning also, I knew there was a possibility to gain the Maglia Rosa (leader's pink jersey). I had to stay in the wheels because there was a lot of headwind. An 18km climb is always a bit of a gamble.
"I struggled a lot to get in the first part of the group, but I managed to stay calm and follow my goal. I didn't have too many things in mind until I heard (sport director) Davide Bramati screaming in the radio 'go for pink'. I'm super happy that I can sit here."
Polanc was part of a four-man breakaway in the early part of the stage and by the time the race reached the slopes of the active volcano Etna, the Slovenian was out on his own. He dug deep to come home 19 seconds ahead of Zakarin, whose pursuit proved in vain.
Thomas led the bunch of overall favorites over the line, 29 seconds behind Polanc.
It will have been a disappointment for Sicilian Vincenzo Nibali, who was hoping to wear the pink jersey into his hometown of Messina on Wednesday.
The fifth stage which starts in Pedara on the slopes of Etna should see another sprint finish after an undulating 159 kilometers.
The three-week race finishes in Milan on May 28.