Tirreno-Adriatico reached its queen stage earlier today. Stage four concluded with the 14.7 km Prati di Tivo climb. Given an Hors Catégorie rating, the climb features a 7.0% average gradient. The inclines on the Prati di Tivo are very consistent, meaning that it is suited to steady riding.
Still, the ramps proved to be steep enough to encourage attacking riding. As a result, the climb produced an interesting tactical battle between the lighter climbers looking to get away and the steady riding of race leader Wout van Aert.
The 26-year-old Belgian submitted a very impressive ride. In doing so, he proved that he can mix it up with the climbers on a difficult summit finish.
Still, he was not quite unbeatable, which Tadej Pogačar demonstrated en route to victory. Pogačar took the stage honors for his third victory of the season. The 22-year-old also moved into the overall race lead.
When it was all said and done, van Aert crossed the line in ninth place, 45 seconds down on Pogačar. Considering he was up against the defending Tour champion, that is a pretty impressive result for a guy who won a bunch sprint three days ago.
— Tirreno Adriatico (@TirrenAdriatico) March 13, 2021
With stage four finishing with an ascent of the Prati di Tivo, today presented a big opportunity for the climbers to have their say.
The race hit the base of the climb with Benjamin Thomas and Mads Würtz Schmidt as the two remaining members of the breakaway. Once the climb began in earnest, Würtz Schmidt quickly went solo. The Dane had a sizable advantage of over three minutes at one point. However, the fierce tempo in the bunch whittled down his advantage and eliminated his chance at victory.
Back in the field, a rotating cast of believable contenders tried their luck at getting some separation. Giulio Ciccone made a move early on in the climb, but he was brought back by the Ineos train.
Ineos launched Egan Bernal with 7.8 km to go. This proved to be the move that kicked off the day’s real fireworks. Bernal’s attack established a pattern of riders accelerating out of the main group of contenders, which was led primarily by van Aert.
Ineos tried to play a one-two, sending Geraint Thomas up the road once Bernal was recaptured. However, neither man had the required legs.
With 5.7 km to go, Pogačar made the decisive move when he attacked into a left hairpin bend. He quickly caught up to Thomas, who held his wheel for a moment before falling off the pace under the 5 kilometer to go banner.
The blue jersey of van Aert was seen doing the majority of the chasing. The likes of Bernal, Mikel Landa and Nairo Quintana all tried to get across to Pogačar, but none succeeded. Simon Yates came the closest, eventually finishing six seconds down on the flying Slovenian. Sergio Higuita finished best of the rest to round out the podium.
Current General Classification Standings
- Tadej Pogačar – 17:53:21
- Wout van Aert – 0:35
- Sergio Higuita – 0:35
- Mikel Landa – 0:38
- Nairo Quintana – 0:41
- João Almeida – 0:45
- Jakob Fuglsang – 0:55
- Simon Carr – 1:03
- Matteo Fabbro – 1:12
- Geraint Thomas – 1:25
With his phenomenal ride, Pogačar earned a 35 second buffer on both van Aert and Higuita. The Slovenian has put himself in a great position, but the win is not quite secured at this point.
The time gaps in the coming days are likely to be smaller than they were today, but there are still points where seconds can be gained and lost.
If Pogačar has similar legs to today, going on the attack and gaining more time is not out of the realm of possibility.
🚨NEW CLIMBING RECORD! 36 min 06 sec! Pogacar destroys the Prati di Tivo record, climbing over 2 minutes faster than Froome in 2013!😱 With ~6,6 w/kg for 36:06, he sets one of the best performances for such efforts since 1998! HOLY… #TirrenoAdriatico https://t.co/i4TtdnbEfK pic.twitter.com/wdwe2LhSrC
— Mihai Simion (@faustocoppi60) March 13, 2021
According to Mihai Simion, Pogačar absolutely obliterated the climbing record on the Prati di Tivo with today’s performance.
Four stages into the race, Wout van Aert, Julian Alaphilippe, Mathieu van der Poel and Tadej Pogačar each have a stage win to their respective names.
With all four stars looking to add to that tally, we should be in for a very exciting final three stages.
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