Aurélien Paret-Peintre has taken victory in stage four of the Giro d'Italia ©Getty Images

Frenchman Aurélien Paret-Peintre has taken victory in stage four of the Giro d'Italia following a superbly timed late attack in Lago Laceno, while Norway's Andreas Leknessund wrestled the general classification lead away from Remco Evenepoel of Belgium.

AG2R Citroën's Paret-Peintre and TeamDSM's Leknessund were involved in a seven-man group that broke away from the main pack at the 79-kilometres mark.

The group gradually built a lead which was more than five minutes ahead at one point of the 175km stage beginning in Venosa.

The pair then pushed ahead to set up a dogfight.

They tackled a steep climb before Paret-Peintre prevailed in the sprint finish, clocking in after 4hour 16min 4sec.

Toms Skujiņš of Latvia was a whisker in front of Italian Vincenzo Albanese to claim third place.

"My main objective this year was the Giro," Paret-Peintre said. 

"I trained a lot for this day, for these weeks.

"We knew today was the day for a breakaway, so we came here to take a stage victory.

"I knew I was faster than Leknessund, so we collaborated until the end.

"And he took the maglia rosa, so everyone is happy I think."

Leknessund's finish resulted in him being catapulted to pole position in the general classification standings.

The 23-year-old now has a 28 second lead over Soudal-Quick-Step rider Evenepoel while Paret-Peintre moves up to third, 30 seconds off the pace.

"I came here to go for stages," Leknessund said.

"That was also the goal for today, but I realised that the pink was also possible.

"Obviously I went for the stage and also knew that pink was possible.

"My legs were hurting so much, but it's super special to be in the pink.

"Only Knut Knudsen from Norway had it before me but looking at who had the maglia rosa in the past few days and the impact of this jersey it's a great day in my career."

The race is set to continue tomorrow with the fifth stage which sees riders travel 172km from Altripaldo to Salerno in the southwest of the country.