Wouter Poels (Team Sky) lost 1:37 and the Tirreno-Adriatico blue leader’s jersey to an unstoppable Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in the snow on Terminillo but the Dutchman took defeat well, knowing he'd given his all on the 16km climb.
“It was really hard, I gave everything, but that’s the result,” he said pragmatically. “It’s been a good experience. I’m now tenth overall and I hope to move up. I’ve learnt a lot this week with the team, it’s good for the future.”
Poels had talked up his chances of defending the 17-second lead he carved with his solo attack on stage four. Team Sky seemed the strongest for the first half of the 16km climb to Terminillo but then Poels had no reply when Quintana jumped away with five kilometres to go. The numerous other attacks by Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) only hurt him even more and he lost contact with the chasers. He finished 16th, in the same time as teammate Michel Nieve, slipping to tenth overall at 1:13.
“It was nice to have the jersey and we tried to defend it but when you loose it, it’s not nice. But that’s racing,” he said. “It was good to have led the race and the team worked really hard so it’s a little disappointing to lose it but its still early season and we’ve still got the TT coming. We’ll see how the race ends.”
The heavy snow in the final two kilometres and final minutes of the stage sparked debate about rider safety. Some team managers watching from home, including Patrick Lefevere of Etixx-QuickStep thought the conditions were too extreme. While the final part of the stage was raced under heavy snow, most of the riders, including Poels, admitted it was not a problem because they finished at the summit and quickly rode to their team buses to shower and get warm.
“I think it was quite okay to race. It was a little bit too much in the last two or three kilometres but it was okay,” Poels said, echoing what Contador and Quintana had said.
“Of course, I do think an Extreme Weather Protocol is a good idea, you have it in a lot of other sports, only not in cycling. It will be a good rule. But the weather didn’t really change the race. Quintana was really strong. I think he took something like 55 seconds on the second guy. I just wasn’t good enough to follow the best guys today.”
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