Overall race leader Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), Remco Evenepoel (Quickstep-AlphaVinyl) and Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) veered off course ahead of the final climb of the day in what turned into a dramatic finale of stage 5 at Tirreno-Adriatico.
The trio were on the attack together when they failed to notice a right-hand turn with 6km to go. Instead, they rode straight on, and off the route.
Evenepoel led the trio, who were closing the gap to the leading breakaway, and blasted past the corner, only noticing it as he was racing by, such was the speed.
Several course marshals onsite off to the left-hand side of the road, who were wearing bright yellow vests, waved at the the riders in the last seconds as they passed. However, there seemed to be limited visibility of course markers to direct the riders.
"There was a small arrow pointing right, but we just missed it, everybody, and yeah, we tried to come back but it was too far for the stage win," said Pogačar after the stage in Fermo.
Evenepoel had gone clear with Pogacar and Vingegaard after an acceleration over the top of the penultimate climb, and they had picked up Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo) from the breakaway. The Italian, who was at the back of the group, did spot the turn and stayed on course, looking back in amazement.
Evenepoel was leading at the time and so was the last to stop and turn around. Pogačar managed to drag himself back to the front quickly, as did Vingegaard, but Evenepoel was cut adrift and soon found himself 20 seconds down.
He faced a desperate scramble to get back on and, finding help from teammate Davide Ballerini, just about managed it ahead of the short final climb.
From there, he matched Pogačar and Vingegaard on the double digit gradients up to Fermo to maintain the status quo, but shook his head as he crossed the line.
Pogačar finished 6th on the day at 28 seconds down from stage winner Warren Barguil (Arkea Samsic), with Vingegaard in 7th and Evenepoel 9th.
"I'm a bit disappointed because we missed the turn and it could have ended differently, but in the end the main goal was to keep the leader's jersey," said Pogačar.
"It was a really strong breakaway in the front and the team did a great job to keep the distance as small as possible, so we are happy to remain in the leader's jersey."
Incredibile! 😱😨La testa della corsa sbaglia strada alla Tirreno Adriatico: vittoria in fumo e ora Evenepoel deve inseguire! 😯#TirrenoAdriatico | #EurosportCICLISMO pic.twitter.com/hrjvALGVggMarch 11, 2022
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.