Torrential rain marred the resumption of the Giro d’Italia as Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni won stage four in Bari on Tuesday.
After Monday’s rest day and the transfer from Dublin to southern Italy after three successful days in Ireland, the 112-kilometre 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 as numerous riders tumbled on the slick roads.
Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) recovered from a late mechanical to launch his bid for the line off the Giant-Shimano sprint train - without Marcel Kittel, who withdrew due to illness - and take victory ahead of Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) and Tom Veelers (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 as he said on cyclingnews.com: “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.
“It’s totally different. Ireland is a country where it always rains and the roads are used to the changing conditions.”
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 that I would never get back onto the peloton, but the team did very well to get me back on,” he said.
“In the final straight I had to give everything and fortunately I won.”