Scarponi wins ahead of stars in Tirreno, Gesink takes lead
Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) rode clear of a star-studded group to claim Tirreno-Adriatico's fourth stage in Chieti, Italy. Cadel Evans (BMC) and Scarponi's team-mate, Damiano Cunego, battled through the city centre to claim second and third.
Italian Scarponi remembered the city's cobbled streets well, he won a stage in Chieti last year.
"Chieti beings me luck, I hope it keeps going like this," Scarponi said. "I like this city, though, this year the stage was much harder, with many top names."
Ivan Basso, Vincenzo Nibali, Danilo Di Luca, Philippe Gilbert, Andy Schleck Fabian Cancellara and Robert Gesink all trailed slightly behind. The undulating 240-kilometre, six-hour slog travelled through Italy's central regions, Umbria and Le Marche.
Dutchman Gesink of team Rabobank claimed the overall lead. Previous race winner, American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo) lost time with other sprinters - including Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) - and the blue race leader's jersey. He held it for two days.
Gesink aims to win the race overall when it ends on Tuesday in San Benedetto. Last year, he finished the race fifth overall behind Stefano Garzelli. This year, he comes to Italy having already won the Tour of Oman overall thanks to a mountain and time trial stage win.
"When the final started, I was waiting and waiting to see how far I could get," said Gesink. "I was a little stupid not to trust myself, because I was good in the end. I should have had more confidence. It will be different in the next few days."
He leads the classification by 10 seconds over Evans and 12 seconds over Basso.
Stage winner Michele Scarponi (r) talks to race leader Robert Gesink (l)
The 24-year-old took the overall lead after attacks from his Tour de France rivals, Schleck and Basso. Once the two-man escape of Mickaël Chérel and Gorazd Stangelj was caught, they went into action. Schleck first tried to bridge to a move to Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) and then Basso featured in the final kilometres with Liquigas team-mate Nibali.
The Northern Classics riders, though, first had a try. Cancellara (Leopard-Trek) escaped in the last 7.5 kilometres with Dmitriy Muravyev and Visconti. World Champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) chased solo, later joined by Gilbert.
Scarponi knew the finish well from last year. He waited until the race hit Chieti's city streets, at 1.7 kilometres to race, to launch his attack. Gilbert gave chase, but was marked by Scarponi's Lampre team-mate, Damiano Cunego.
Cunego dropped Gilbert. Di Luca, Evans and Basso chased behind. Evans rode clear of his companions, almost reached the Lampre duo and took third.
Tirreno-Adriatico 2011, stage four: Narni to Chieti, 240km
1. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre in 6-10-56
2. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-ISD
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team at same time
4. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 2 secs
5. Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Katusha at 6 secs
Overall classification after stage four
1. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank in 15-05-10
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team at 10 secs
3. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 12 secs
4. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD at 15 secs
5. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-ISD at 19 secs