Vincenzo Nibali attacked solo and won Tirreno-Adriatico's queen stage to Prati di Tivo today. His victory, plus bonus seconds, moved him only 12 seconds from Chris Horner's overall lead. Roman Kreuziger sits second overall at five seconds.
"I tried to break the bank," Nibali of team Liquigas said. "I was sitting there in the wheels, I thought, 'Now or never'."
Nibali closed the 14.5-kilometre climb at the end of the 196-kilometre stage with 16 seconds on Roman Kreuziger (Astana) and Horner (RadioShack). With bonus seconds - 10, 6 and 4 - Horner loses time and holds only five seconds on Kreuziger in second and 12 on Nibali.
With Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r) in fourth at 45 seconds, it is a three-horse race with only two stages remaining: a circuit stage tomorrow in Offida and a 9.3-kilometre time trial in San Benedetto on Tuesday.
"I have confidence in myself," Kreuziger said while putting on warm clothes. "I'm racing for the overall win on Tuesday."
Nibali broke free of former team-mate Kreuziger and Horner with 3.8 kilometres to race up the snow-lined climb. Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) pulled for Kreuziger and then left the rest to Horner. They limited the time loss while Nibali towel off the day's effort.
"Once I attacked," Nibali explained, "I just kept pushing it, keeping the pace up."
"With Roman and I sitting so close in the GC," Horner added, "it was up to Vincenzo to attack."
Horner played his card earlier on the climb after the day's three-man escape disintergrated. In an elite group, numbering about 30 riders, he accelerated. Not once, but three times between 5.5 and 4.5 kilometres to race, he lifted the pace to shed his rivals. Tour of Oman winner, Peter Velits (OmegaPharma-Quick Step) slipped off, drifting back towards a group with Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).
Nibali, however, had the final word.
The race now heads downhill, to a 181-kilometre stage in Offida. Only a 302-metre climb features, small compared to today's 1405-metre giant, but it comes seven times.
Sky won two days in a row with Mark Cavendish and Edvald Boasson Hagen and now Liquigas twice, with Peter Sagan yesterday. The wins give Nibali confidence.
"We are a big team," said Nibali, "we should be able to do big work and go for the win."
Tirreno-Adriatico 2012, stage five: Martinsicuro to Prati di Tivo, 196km
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
2. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Astana at 15 secs
3. Chris Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan at 15 secs
4. Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM at 18 secs
5. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD at st
6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Colnago-CSF Inox at st
7. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale at 23 secs
8. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 37 secs
9. Christophe Riblon (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale at st
10. Wout Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM at 53 secs
Overall classification after stage five
1. Chris Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan
2. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Astana at 5 secs
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 12 secs
4. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale at 45 secs
5. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD at 47 secs
6. Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM at 48 secs
7. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 1-00
8. Christophe Riblon (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale at 1-10
9. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Colnago-CSF Inox at 1-17
10. Cameron Meyer (Aus) GreenEdge at 1-23
Vincenzo Nibali goes solo in the final 3km
Vincenzo Nibali stays away to take the stage win
Tirreno-Adriatico 2012: Latest news
Goss gets it together for Milan-San Remo
Sprinters opt for Tirreno to warm up for Milan-San Remo
GreenEdge's time trial practice pays off
Tirreno-Adriatico 2012: Stage reports
Stage four: Sagan rockets ahead, Horner grabs lead
Stage three: Boasson Hagen takes Sky's second win
Stage two: Cavendish wins opening road stage
Stage one: GreenEdge take Tirreno-Adriatico opening team time trial
Tirreno-Adriatico 2012: Related links
Tirreno-Adriatico 2012: The Big Preview
Tirreno-Adriatico 2012: Who will win?