Kämna in Tirreno-Adriatico lead but fears the return of Roglic in mountain stages
Lennard Kämna wasn't convinced that the four climbs before the finish of stage 4 of Tirreno-Adriatico in Tortoreto were enough to crack Filippo Ganna but at the end of the stage, the quiet-speaking Bora-Hansgrohe rider was in the blue jersey with a real chance of securing overall success in Italy.
Ganna cracked on the last time up the three-kilometre climb, while Kämna fought to stay up front in the sprint to the line. He finished five seconds behind stage winner Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) but that was enough to take the race lead.
Kämna pulled on the blue jersey on the podium and now sits six seconds ahead of Roglič, with João Almedia third at eight seconds and his UAE Team Emirates teammate Brandon McNulty fourth at 13 seconds.
"To be honest, I underestimated the stage. I didn't think the final was so hard," Kämna admitted.
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"But when we went over it the first time, I was then sure it was going to be really hard and there was maybe even a chance to take the jersey. I had to fight full gas to lose as little time as possible myself.
"As a team we tried to be in front and tried to be active and aggressive, to cover moves. At the end, it was full gas racing."
Kämna won stage 3 of the 2022 Giro d'Italia on the slopes of Mount Etna and then spent a week in second place overall. Now he is experiencing race leadership himself after helping Jai Hindley win the 2022 Corsa Rosa and give Bora-Hansgrohe their first-ever Grand Tour win.
"I'm really, really happy to take the blue jersey. This is the first time I've had a leader's jersey in a stage race and to have it here in Italy is extra special after last year's Giro was a great experience for me and the whole team," Kemna said.
"We'll try to defend it for sure. I think it's going to be hard but we'll try to be sure. Six seconds on Primož Roglič is not a lot, he's always a concern."
Kämna and Bora-Hansgrohe face some hard work and hard racing in the next two days at Tirreno-Adriatico.
Stage 5 finishes with a 14.5km climb to the finish at Sassotetto, with snow and cold rain likely.
Saturday's sixth stage is around the short and steep hills of Le Marche, with 20 or so steep 'muri' climbs likely to gradually take their toll on the riders in a battle of elimination. Whoever leads the race on Saturday evening will probably win overall after Sunday's flat stage to San Benedetto del Tronto.
"I think Friday's longer climb suits me better than a punchy climb like today's stage but in general it's going to be a super hard couple of days. I'll just have to climb as fast as I can," Kemna said.
"I was happy to sit in second place behind Ganna after the TT and now we can see what's possible. My main goal this year is the Giro d'Italia, to try for the GC, and so Tirreno-Adriatico is a big part of the preparation for that."