By Paul Osborne

Nacer Bouhanni has won the fourth stage of the Giro d'Italia  ©Velo/Getty ImagesNacer Bouhanni of the FDJ team has won the fourth stage of this year's Giro d'Italia after a series of late crashes and a rider protest forced race officials to neutralise the final lap of the stage between the Italian cities of Giovinazzo and Bari.

The riders were worried that rain would make the city centre finishing circuit very slippery and rode slowly for much of the stage until it was confirmed that times for the overall classification would be taken with one lap and 8.3 kilometres to go.

Their worries were proved true in the final stages of the race as several riders tumbled in the final corners after rain showers turned the track into an ice rink.

Frenchman Bouhanni was one of those who managed to stay upright as he claimed his stage victory in a Grand tour.

"I'm super happy to have won," said Bouhanni.

"I punctured with two laps to go and I was scared of crashing near the finishing line.

"It was like an ice rink but I managed to win.

"When I punctured I thought I had little chance of doing the sprint but I had a great team that helped me get back on.

"When we got back on, I told myself 'Allez, let's do this sprint.'

"I think the roads were very slippery and dangerous on the last lap.

"It was a pity but that's racing.

"I almost crashed twice and my back wheel slipped on the last corner.

"However, we've got to be ready for the bad weather in the mountains too."

The peleton spent much of the race on a go-slow in protest over the rainy conditions in Italy ©Velo/Getty ImagesThe peleton spent much of the race on a go-slow in protest over the rainy conditions in Italy ©Velo/Getty Images

Germany's Marcel Kittel was forced to pull out of action before this first stage in Italy due to flu following his two stage victories in Northern Ireland.

Race leader Michael Matthews of Orica GreenEdge did not contest the sprint but the Australian held on to his leader's pink jersey.

Giacomo Nizzolo of Trek Factory Racing was second in the sprint, with Kittel's Giant-Shimano team mate Tom Veelers in third.

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