Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Caltagirone — Belgian rider Tim Wellens won the fourth stage of the Giro d’Italia on Tuesday, the first on Italian soil in the 2018 race, while Chris Froome’s hopes of a third straight Grand Tour victory took another hit.

Wellens won a sprint on an uphill finish, holding off Michael Woods of Canada and Italy’s Enrico Battaglin following the 202km ride between Catania and Caltagirone in Sicily.

"It was turny and twisting all day, it was not so easy. In the end, my teammates took me perfectly to the front," said Wellens. "Adam [Hansen] did a really long pull and then Tosh [Van der Sande] was pulling and it was splitting behind us. I had to be careful not to go too soon. I had a little advantage and so could start the climb easy, then I went full gas at 200m."

Australian Rohan Dennis retained the overall leader’s pink jersey with a 1sec advantage over defending champion Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands

Britain’s four-time Tour de France winner Froome lost up to 20sec on the final climb.

The race was built around a five-man breakaway — Enrico Barbin, Jacopo Mosca, Quentin Jauregui, Maxim Belkov and Marco Frapporti — who opened up a 4min lead before being caught 13km from the line and the climb towards Caltagirone.

In the final push, Italy’s Valerio Conti showed his ambitions up front but was reeled in with 3km to go.

Portugal’s Jose Goncalves, one of the overall contenders, suffered a couple of mechanical problems in the finale and dropped out of the top 10.

For 26-year-old Lotto rider Wellens it was a second career win in the Giro two years after his first.

The Belgian has claimed one-day race wins such as the Montreal GP in 2015 and stage races including the Eneco Tour and the Tour of Poland.