Team Sky rider Wouter Poels capped a thrilling solo attack with victory and the overall leader’s jersey after the fourth stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico on Saturday.
Poels, claiming his first win of the season, countered Italian Giampaolo Caruso after the Katusha rider tried to distance a small leading peloton on the final meters of the Crispiero climb, whose summit is 5km from the finish line.
The tall Dutchman went on to hold off a small group of chasers to cross the finish line solo and take the leader’s blue jersey from Belgian Greg van Avermaet of BMC Racing.
“It’s really unbelievable,” Poels told Italian television station Rai. “I had good legs, so it’s nice if you can attack like this and take the victory.”
Poels hit the finish line 14 seconds ahead of Rigoberto Uran, who sprinted ahead of a small group containing Joaquin Rodriguez, Alexis Vuillermoz and defending champion Alberto Contador, among others.
The pace of Vuillermoz and AG2R teammate Rinaldo Nocentini on the final kilometers of the Crispiero climb proved fatal to any hopes Van Avermaet had of holding on to the blue jersey for another day.
Their speed at the front left the Belgian trailing, before he finished more than two minutes behind Poels.
Poels made his move with just over 6km to race, leaving Caruso in his wake with ease after the Italian’s brief attempt to pull free.
Once over the crest of the climb, the Dutchman hit full gas on his way toward victory.
“It was perfect timing. I was looking a little bit at some of the big riders like Contador and [Vincenzo] Nibali, but I felt I had the legs and thought maybe I’d attack over the top of the climb. Then you only have to do the downhill. It worked pretty good,” Poels said.
One of the biggest losers on the day was Italian Nibali, who lost eight seconds to Contador in the race for overall victory after paying for his earlier efforts on the climb when he failed to follow the Spanish rider’s group at the finish.
Although Uran was second overall at 17 seconds behind Poels, Nibali, in ninth, and Contador, in 10th, are only 31 and 32 seconds off the leading pace ahead of yesterday’s key climbing stage which was due to begin in Esanatoglia and ends with a 16km ascent to the summit of Terminillo, Italy.
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