The Italian neo-pro gained nine places in the general classification at the end of day four.
Everyone was expecting a fast and frenetic stage four in Ster ZLM Toer, but the tough parcours led to a different scenario, as the peloton decided to leave a big break pull away and keep it on a leash. As consequence, Phil Gaimon (Cannondale), Jochem Hoekstra (Parkhotel Valkenburg), Jimmy Janssens (Team 3M), Peter Lenderink (Rabobank Development), Xandro Meurisse (Crelan-Vastgoedservice), Joey Rosskopf (BMC), Florian Senechal (Cofidis), Ivar Slik (Roompot Oranje), Vegard Stake Langen (IAM Cycling) and Elias Van Breussegem (Verandas Willems) couldn't open a lead of over 5 minutes, despite working well together on the tough bergs sprinkled on the route between Verviers and La Gileppe, some of which reminded the riders of the Ardennes Classics.
Controlled by LottoNL-Jumbo and Lotto-Soudal, the strung-out pack chew into the escapees' advantage and as the terrain was becoming more and more challenging, resembling to a roller coaster, the riders at the front began to suffer and lose a serious amount of time. This led to a fragmented group, from which Stake Laengen attacked with less than 30 kilometers to go and went for glory, forging a 40-second gap on his former companions, who were eventually reeled in by the chasers.
As the finish neared, the Norwegian's advantage decreased and the harrowing climbs played into the peloton's favour, who neutralized that move and made contact with the lone escapee in the last kilometer of stage four. On the uphill drag to La Gileppe, Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) accelerated and topped two countrymen, Wout Van Aert (Crelan-Vastgoedservice) and Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Topsport Vlaanderen), moving himself into the yellow jersey.
Neo-pro Davide Martinelli was also a protagonist on the sharp ramp, putting his explosiveness to work and crossing the line a few seconds behind the winner. Seventh on the queen-stage, Davide climbed to 5th place in the general classification – less than half a minute adrift – a position he is poised to hold on to in the last day of the race (Someren – Boxtel, 186 kilometers).
"The course suited me, and I really liked the fact that we went over La Redoute and Rosier, two climbs which play such an important role in Liège–Bastogne–Liège. The finish suited me and I must thank the team for protecting and bringing me to the front. When the others left, I tried to follow, but they had stronger legs. Still, I am happy with the outcome and with being in the top 5 at the moment. I will fight to keep my position, while also helping the team on the final day", concluded 23-year-old Davide, for whom a top 10 in Ster ZLM Toer would be his best result of the season in the GC of a stage race.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele