Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) stopped just past the finish line at Terminillo to put on warm clothing and perhaps stop for a second to take stock of his superb ride on the 16km climb in the Italian Apennines.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) won stage 4 and took the overall race lead but Thomas finished second, just 18 seconds behind the Colombian climber. He rode aggressively but also intelligently, as he out-performed some of Grand Tour riders in the peloton and some of those who will be his rivals in the Giro d'Italia in May.
"I didn't really know what to expect, it's the first mountaintop of the season. I've been feeling pretty good, so yeah, I'm pretty happy with that. Quintana's quite good going uphill," Thomas said wrapping up against the gelid temperatures at the finish.
Having already nabbed a stage victory on the second day of racing at Tirreno, Thomas took huge encouragement from being able to pursue Quintana up the seven per cent gradient of Terminillo on Saturday. The likes of Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) and numerous others all finished well down on the Welshman. Thomas beat Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) by six seconds, as the two British riders looked the strongest amongst the Quintana chasers. It is the first time that two British riders finish in the top three of a stage at Tirreno-Adriatico.
"It's encouraging. Bloody hard, but encouraging," Thomas said of being able to pursue Quintana as he did.
"That kick Quintana had, the acceleration, is phenomenal, and I knew I couldn't match that. I had to kick myself, but just not go well into the red. I had to try to pace it. I started to claw my way back, but he started to kick again. But yeah, it's not bad."
A strong, united Team Sky
Team Sky rode strongly as a unit, indicating that the questions concerning the past and now centred on team manager Dave Brailsford have had little impact on performance for now.
Michal Kwiatkowski attacking early on the climb and joined a move that could have stayed away. Diego Rosa, Vasil Kiryienka and Mikel Landa all rode in support of Thomas, protecting and positioning him on the climb. Being able to draft on wheels and stay near the front of the pack was important.
"It was really good, the team is super strong, I was feeling pretty good. I told Kwiatkowski to have a dig, just to mix it up a bit. Yeah, we had good numbers and that bodes well for the next races," Thomas said in praise of his teammates.
"I was just concentrated about the stage. Those boys (Urán and Yates) are obviously doing the same, so they didn't want to pull. That made it a bit of cat n' mouse but once Quintana went it was everyone for himself then."
Thomas and Team Sky lost 1:20 to Movistar in the opening team time trial after suffering three unusual front wheel failures. That cost Thomas a shot at overall victory in this Tirreno-Adriatico and leaves him now eighth, 1:23 behind Quintana. He could move up thanks to Tuesday's final 10km time trial but most of all can learn and take confidence as he begins to think about and prepare for the Giro d'Italia, which is only eight weeks away.
"I was just trying to get the best result really. It's a long way off to the Giro and a lot of guys will get better," Thomas said.
"For me it's an unknown, it's the first time I go for a Grand Tour, but I think with myself and Landa, we'll have a good chance."
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