Riding for Columbia, the 25-year-old Swede took the race leader’s pink jersey from star sprinter Alessandro Petacchi following the 162km stage from Padova to San Martino di Castrozza.
While Italy’s I Danilo Di Luca, the 2007 Giro champion, snagged victory on race’s fourth stage, Lövkvist performance was enough to give him to overall lead.
“I’m starting to realize how big this is, it was an unreal feeling that hit me when I realized the leader’s jersey was mine,” Lövkvist told the Aftonbladet newspaper.
Lövkvist wasn’t even born the last time a Swedish cyclist led the pack at the Giro d’Italia back in 1983 when Tommy Prim led the race for one stage.
While Lövkvist was thrilled to be in the lead, he remained cautious about his chances of winning the event outright.
“I’m happy as hell. Before the Giro I didn’t think it was out of the question that at some point I might get the jersey,” he told Aftonbladet.
“But that I’ll be wearing it all the way to Rome is probably unrealistic. It’s a long way to go to a spot on the winner’s podium, but I’m going to do my best.”
Wednesday’s fifth stage is a 125-km ride to Alpe de Siusi which includes a 24.9km climb reaching an average eight percent gradient over the final 10 km.
With Lövkvist in the lead, Columbia now have several tactical options.
Their main pink jersey hopeful is Australian Michael Rogers, who finished only six seconds down on Di Luca.