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Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) won stage 5 of Tirreno-Adriatico atop Sassotetto to move into the blue jersey of race leader on a day where high winds had caused the final climb to be shortened by 3km.
Those conditions lent a certain degree of confusion to proceedings in the front group in the final kilometre, but Roglič imposed his inexorable logic on the day by emerging late to claim the sprint ahead of Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) and Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers).
It was Roglič’s second such victory in as many days, and the winner’s time bonus lifts him four seconds ahead of Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) and a dozen clear of João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) with two days to race.
Winds gusts buffeted the gruppo for much of the day, and the stiff headwind on the lower slopes of the final climb – reduced to 10km after the upper portion was deemed too exposed and dangerous – dissuaded early attackers on the ascent to Sassotetto.
The deadlock remained unbroken until Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) forged clear in what initially seemed a speculative effort with 4.6km to go. Given the conditions, the Sicilian might have hoped for company, but he warmed to his task as the climb drew on and his advantage grew, with nobody willing to take firm control of the pursuit behind.
By the time Caruso reached the banks of snow lining the roadside nearer the summit, his lead had stretched out to 20 seconds, and he maintained that buffer as he entered the final 2km beneath icy drops of rain.
The complexion of the race changed, however, when Enric Mas (Movistar) delivered a fierce acceleration with 1.3km to go, which only Ciccone, Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) and Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost) could initially follow.
They would catch Caruso with 800 metres remaining, but the move lost momentum when they turned into a headwind shortly afterwards. Behind, Wilco Kelderman worked to bring his leader Roglič and another dozen riders back into the contention, and they bridged up to Mas et al with 500 metres left.
As he did 24 hours earlier, Carthy looked to anticipate the sprint by opening his effort from distance, but the conditions were against him. Kelderman was the next to try, his acceleration doubling as a sort of lead-out for Roglič, before Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Geoghegan Hart kicked on the interminable final ramps.
Roglič’s timing, however, once again proved impeccable. He stayed hidden until the crown of the final bend before emerging to win by a bike length from Ciccone and Geoghegan Hart.
Hindley, who had worked earlier on the climb to keep tabs on Caruso’s attack, took fourth ahead of his Bora-Hansgrohe teammates Kämna and Vlasov, but their efforts weren’t enough to prevent Roglič from taking possession of the blue jersey thanks to the stage winner’s time bonus.
How it unfolded
High winds seemed to be general all over southern Europe on Friday, and the same gusts that forced the cancellation of stage 6 of Paris-Nice also had an impact on RCS Sport’s plans for stage 5 of Tirreno-Adriatico. Shortly before the stage got underway in Morro d’Oro, the organisation announced that the final climb had been shortened by 2.5km to avoid the worst of the conditions at the summit.
Gusts of 70kph were reported out on the course, which meant that there was still some initial doubt as to whether the gruppo would be able to climb Sassotetto at all, but the stage would ultimately go ahead in this slightly abridged version with a 10.7km haul to the line.
Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), Davide Ballerini (Soudal-QuickStep), Zdenek Stybar (Jayco-AlUla), Erik Fetter (Eolo-Kometa), Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Simon Guglielmi (Arkéa-Samsic), and Florian Stork (Team DSM) formed the day’s early break, slipping away on the unclassified climb to Notaresco.
The escapees soon established a lead of two minutes over the bunch, despite losing Simmons, who opted to sit up and wait rather than persist in a day-long endeavour off the front. The American would later play a role in shepherding leader Giulio Ciccone towards the final climb.
The terrain grew more rugged as the day drew on, and the break began to fray accordingly. Ballerini, Guglielmi and Stork were the last men standing after the first classified climb of San Ginesio, but their lead was dwindling. The wind was also making itself felt, with Guglielmi narrowly avoiding a crash after he was caught out by a gust on the descent.
Ineos were forcing the pace at that point on behalf of Tao Geoghegan Hart, and they swept up the break with 30km, with Michal Kwiatkowski and Filippo Ganna prominent. The penultimate climb of Gualdo saw a selection forced at the rear of the bunch, with Wout van Aert – a faller yesterday – among the riders to drop back.
Movistar took over from Ineos after Gualdo, with the gusting crosswinds again causing some frissons in the reduced bunch, but the race swung into the stiffest of headwinds on the false flat that brought the race through Sarnano and to the base of the final ascent of Sassotetto.
That headwind continued on the lower slopes of the climb, where Bora-Hansgrohe led the way for Kämna, Vlasov and Hindley, while the rest of the reduced front group bided their time behind.
Caruso would later spark the attacking but Roglič, as he so often does in such situations, had the final word. Saturday’s hilly penultimate stage around Osimo is filled with potential pitfalls, but Roglič is the firm favourite from here.
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