Tirreno-Adriatico: Stage 5

Just when you think you have seen it all from Mathieu van der Poel, he attacks solo 50km from the finish and wins the stage. Race leader Pogacar chases him and extends lead over third placed on thje stage, Wout van Aert

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Tirreno-Adriatico: Stage 5

Just when you think you have seen it all from Mathieu van der Poel, he attacks solo 50km from the finish and wins the stage. Race leader Pogacar chases him and extends lead over third placed on thje stage, Wout van Aert

A hard and lengthy 205km fifth stage in Tirreno-Adriatico resembling a Belgium classic packed with ‘bergs’ in freezing cold rain, saw a shake-up in the classification with significant splits occurring in the peloton. This saw defending champion Simon Yates sneak back up the GC to 10th position for Team BikeExchange whilst others such as 8th overall on stage 4, Simon Carr and 10th placed Geraint Thomas plummeted down the GC.

The stage saw a breakaway of five riders before a dangerous group of favourites ended their hopes and bridged over, making the catch with 55km to go. Defending champion in the race, Simon Yates, initially missed the move, but was able to quickly jump across with Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic), riding himself back into contention, but it proved to be too late to contest the stage win as ahead, Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) had clipped off the front solo and established a lead of over four-minutes.

In a battle for the classification and stage victory, Tadej Pogacar (UAE-Team Emirates) went in pursuit of the sole leader Van der Poel and came close, almost stealing the stage victory from the Dutch champion, but having to settle for second but extending his overall lead with just two days remaining as Wout van Aert came in third on the stage. It was yet another example of how these three riders have shown themselves to be the strongest during the race so far.

Mathieu van der Poel, exhausted after a 50km solo effort, “Over the last kilometres I was completely empty,” says Van der Poel afterwards. “I was told that Pogačar was coming, but I was not even able to listen. I just wanted to get to the finish line as quickly as possible. If I had finished second, it would have been a big disappointment” added the Dutch champion. I was just empty in the end. I’m glad I won, but I was really dead. That was one of my toughest days ever on a bike.

I attacked from afar because I was cold. I still felt good up to twenty kilometers to go. From that moment on I was extremely cold. This was one of my toughest days ever on a bike. I will be saving my energy here for the last two days. Tomorrow is the time for the sprinters and I have no ambitions for the individual time trial. His next goal is Milan-San Remo in a week. “I have to take it easy now, but I still have a week to recover,” he says.

The chasing peloton before both Pogacar and Wout van Aert, both solo, chased Van Der Poel

Wout van Aert: Second overall after a grueling battle on steep Italian hills – “The harsh weather conditions only made the race harder. I got really cold, especially on the descents. It was a bit like ‘survival of the fittest’”, Van Aert explained. “I fought for what I was worth in the last lap. The best men were at the front of the race and so they came out on top. I kept my focus on Pogacar, because Van der Poel was already down on the GC standings.”

“Before the start I had the idea that I could possibly take some time today. On the last lap everything fell apart and it was just survival of the fittest. It’s no shame to be beaten by Tadej uphill. I’m not going to make up the difference of 1’15 in a possible sprint tomorrow and a short time trial on Tuesday. The next two days I can still go for stage wins. I still have the motivation for that.”

Tadej Pogačar: Reducing a gap of over 3 minutes to the solo Mathieu Van der Poel, the GC leader almost caught the Dutch champion “I only thought about my classification, not about the stage victory”, Pogačar said afterwards.

“I chose the attack, because I saw that there was an opportunity to free myself of Wout van Aert (2nd on GC)”, the Slovenian says about his attack on the final lap of the very tough course around Castelfidardo.

“Despite the icy cold, I had good legs and that’s why I gave it a try. I am very happy with that. I never thought I would get so close to Van der Poel again. Anything can still happen, but I hope everything will go well until the end,” said Pogačar. “I am very happy with the lead I have over Wout for the time trial, but I will have to stay focused until the finish of that final time trial.”

Simon Yates: “It was a very difficult day, some good racing but a very very cold day and I tried to do my best. The goal today was to try and win the stage but those really explosive, classics guys they’re way too fast for me, so I did what I could and moving to 10th overall is just a small extra bonus. I felt the legs this morning, after yesterday’s effort, they were tired and very heavy but it was ok I think it was a hard day in general for everyone with the conditions and we did what we could.”

Nairo Quintana: Another rider to drop out of the top 10 “It was a really tough circuit, a course for classic racers. It was a complicated day for me, it was more a battle with the cold than with the rivals… I lost a lot of time in the overall standings. The sequence of efforts and the tempo changes are still a bit difficult, but as I said yesterday, as I go, I am getting back to my competitive rhythm. Tirreno-Adriatico is not over. I’m going little by little. The season is still long! ”

João Almeida: “It was a very hard day, with the rain and cold making it really difficult out there. The race was blown to pieces quite early and from that moment on it was only about limiting the losses, especially as I struggled a bit in the last part of the race. The good thing is that I’m still there in the GC, seventh ahead of hopefully will be two calmer days, and will do my best to maintain this position”, said Almeida after the all-out effort he put in Sunday afternoon.

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