Cadel Evans (BMC) moved up to fourth overall at Tirreno-Adriatico after his strong finish on the steep climb to Colmurano on Sunday.
Evans attacked on the climb and then made a late surge in the final kilometre, preferring to sacrifice his chances of stage victory in exchange for some precious extra seconds.
With race leader Michele Scarponi struggling on the climb after a mid-stage crash, Evans gained eight seconds on the Italian and is now only 18 seconds from the race lead. Monday's short but intense stage to Macerata includes four hilly laps and another steep climb to the finish, giving the world champion one last a shot at overall victory.
"When you can get some like Scarponi on the ropes, you go with all you can,' Evans said after the stage.
"I saw Scarponi in difficulty and could just about make an acceleration. I had Garzelli and I think it was Gasparotto lined up for the finish, then I looked under my shoulder and saw I'd got another Astana guy on the wheel. I thought 'what do I do here?' I could have stopped and played for the stage but get caught by everyone, or continue to try and take time on Scarponi on GC."
Fortunately Evans went for the second option and gained those eight seconds. Will it be enough to decide the race on Monday?
"We'll see," Evans said. "I thought that with the way Androni Giocattoli rode at the start there was nothing we'd be able to do, but they really fell apart with a crash on the descent and after the climb. They're don't look quite as solid as I first expected."
Giro d'Italia reconnaissance
Evans is riding more races in Italy this season as preparation for a bid for overall victory at the Giro d'Italia in May. Between the Strade Bianche race and Tirreno-Adriatico, he and his BMC teammates tested equipment and studied the roads of several key stages.
"It went pretty good. It would have been good to go down and see the Terminillo climb, but with the weather half of the passes are covered in snow. But riding Strade Bianche was really good for us, especially for testing tyres. You don't want to go there (for the Giro stage) and lose two minutes because you don't have wheels that can tolerate the roads.
"We were really happy. We had just two punctures in Strade Bianche, while some teams had ten or more. That a good compliment for our choice of tyre and equipment preparation. It was really useful for that. We didn't do much in terms of results but it's a real good test of equipment that race."