- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

BARI, Italy (AP) - French rider Nacer Bouhanni won the slippery fourth stage of the Giro d’Italia in a sprint Tuesday as the race returned home after opening with three legs in Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Australian rider Michael Matthews retained the overall leader’s pink jersey, with organizers deciding to clock the official times with one lap to go of a circuit in the southern city of Bari because of the rain-slicked road.

Still, there were several falls on the final turns.

Bouhanni didn’t have many established sprint rivals to contend with at the end and clocked nearly 2 1/2 hours over the flat 112-kilometer (70-mile) route from Giovinazzo to Bari - the shortest stage of the three-week race.

It was the sixth win this year and the 26th career victory for Bouhanni, who rides for the FDJ.fr team.

Giacomo Nizzolo of Italy crossed second and Tom Veelers of the Netherlands was third.

Matthews - whose Orica-GreenEdge team won Friday’s opening team time trial - leads Italian veteran Alessandro Petacchi by eight seconds.

The neutralization was demanded by the riders midway through the stage, as they completed eight laps of the finishing circuit.

“It was just way too slippery,” Matthews said. “So we decided together with all of the GC (general classification) riders to neutralize.”

The race sees its first bits of uphill action in stage 5 on Wednesday, a 203-kilometer (126-mile) leg from Taranto to Viggiano that concludes with a mild 5-kilometer (3-mile) climb.

The Giro ends in Trieste on June 1.

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