Tadej Pogačar won the queen stage of Tirreno-Adriatico over Monte Carpegna with yet another dominant performance, extending his overall lead to 1:52 in the process after jumping away from his rivals on the steep climb.
But despite his success, and the ease in which he accomplished victory on Saturday afternoon, he remained humble and stayed focussed, insisting he was under no delusions of grandeur or infallibility.
"I never think I'm unbeatable," said the UAE Team Emirates leader. "Even when I go clear alone, I always think someone can come back and catch me and attack me, so I always take care and don't underestimate anybody.
"When I attack I go full gas but I never know how it will end," he said modestly after his victory in Carpegna, but seemingly more afraid of the cold than his rivals.
While Remco Evenepoel suffered and cracked in the cold and on the steep slopes, losing four minutes, Pogačar was able to comfortably match the pace set by his teammates and then attack alone halfway up the second climb of Monte Carpegna.
He went deep on the 10 per cent gradients of the climb, a favourite of Marco Pantani's, but gained a minute in three kilometres before the top and could avoid taking any risks on the twisting descent to the finish in the village below.
Everything was calculated, including Pogačar's decision to use a rim brake-equipped Colnago to save 300 grams. Such is his superiority, he was able to race defensively even while out front and on the attack.
"When Landa attacked I followed and then he tried to change the rhythm. I didn't like that, so I answered with one good attack, so I could go to the top at my rhythm," he said, explaining the three key moments of the race.
"It was full gas in this cold. I was actually a bit dizzy at the top but I managed to stay on the bike on the descent, even if it was really difficult. I was at my limit for sure.
"When we went over the climb for the first time, Bahrain attacked over the top and drove it on the descent. I really didn't like it. I don't know why, but we were risking crashing and breaking bones, so I was pretty happy to be alone on the second descent."
Two weeks ago, Pogačar secured overall victory in the UAE Tour in the heat of the Middle East. Now he is racing in the bone-chilling cold of early spring in central Italy and the snow-covered high Apennines.
"The cold really influences the race. We're getting more and more tired because when it's cold, your body uses energy to keep warm, it's an extra thing to fight against," he explained.
"Today was extra hard. It was zero degrees at the top of the Carpegna and it was super steep. That causes a lot of damage to the muscles, it's not really healthy for the body. I adapt pretty quickly and my body is always better in the cold, even though I don't like it."
Pogačar is now only one flat stage away from overall victory at Tirreno-Adriatico. He may never feel unbeatable but seems so.
"I wanted to repay my teammates, they were amazing all day, riding on the front, setting the pacing and keeping control, '' he said.
"The GC was close this morning, now it's not so close. But there's still one day to go. We need to concentrate and not make mistakes, so we can make it to the finish and then celebrate."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.