Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) may have narrowly missed out on the victory on stage 4 of Tirreno-Adriatico, but he came away satisfied with his efforts, taking third place behind miraculous victor Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), while also holding on to the race lead.
Sunday’s stage 5 promises another stern test, with seven tough climbs spread out over three laps of a finishing circuit in Recanati. The final hilly stage of the race promises another fierce battle between the top GC contenders, including Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), who finished second in Fossombrone and lies seven seconds back.
"I came to Tirreno-Adriatico to win stages," he said at the finish of stage 4. "With no big mountain stages and two time trials, the only chances to gain time are on the steep climbs, but you can never gain a lot on short climbs.
"I’m riding Tirreno, Catalunya and País Vasco with the goal of winning one of them. Tirreno is the race that suits me the least with the time trial at the end. I’ll always lose a big chunk of time but I’ll try to do my best tomorrow and we’ll see where we end up.
"Tomorrow looks harder than today, especially the final. I think it’s going to be a similar race, but tomorrow finishes uphill. It’s going to be my last chance to gain some time – especially on Roglič, because after that it’s a sprint stage and a time trial."
Saturday’s stage 4 saw the action kick off 35km from the line as a select GC group broke away on the Monteguiducco climb, before Lutsenko launched his own solo bid for glory soon after. Yates was up there in that elite chase group, racing the tight and steep roads with his eyes on the stage win.
"It was like an Ardennes race – up and down all day, steep climbs, small and twisty roads. The guys looked after me perfectly and I was in position when I needed to be when there was a dangerous moment and that was it. I saved a lot of energy before the final and did what I could.
“Yeah [I tried to win], but at the end of the day, Lutsenko was going super strong. He was at the front for 30km and crashed a couple of times and still won the sprint, so for sure the strongest guy in the race won today, but that’s how it is."
It was a good day for Yates as GC rivals such as Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), Wout Poels (Team Sky) and Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) faded away, leaving the Dutchman a relatively distant third overall at 50 seconds.
Roglič, then, should be Yates’ big rival heading into Tuesday’s final stage time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto, regardless of tomorrow’s outcome. Yates seemed quietly confident of his own time trial ability though, sketching a comparison with twin brother Simon, who won the stage 5 time trial at Paris-Nice earlier this week.
"He’s obviously going super well," said Yates of the Slovene. "But, like I said at the beginning, I didn’t come here for the overall. I came here for the stage win so where I end up on GC is where I end up on GC.
"We’ve made some progression [in the time trial] and at the Ruta del Sol I beat him [brother, Simon Yates] by six or seven seconds so I must be doing something right.
"We do TT work but it’s not easy when you weigh in at 60kg. Considering that I think we’re pretty good, and so we’ll keep working."