Julian Alaphilippe shocked the sprinters to take victory in a bunch finish on stage six of Tirreno-Adriatico.
The puncheur found himself in prime position in the final 200m on the wheel of his Deceuninck – Quick-Step lead-out man and fired to victory.
A bizarre sprint finish saw the likes of Elia Viviani and Peter Sagan fall short of glory, as Alaphilippe led from the front.
Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) holds his 25-second advantage over Primož Roglič heading into the final day time trial on Tuesday.
How it happened
The route for stage six was expected to be a return to centre stage for the sprinters, over 195km from Matelica to Jesi, 20km inland from the Adriatic sea.
Opening with a rolling 100km, the peloton then tackled a flat closing second half on the run to the 12.6km finishing circuit.
Culminating in three laps of the circuit, the sprinters will have plenty of time to set up on the perfectly flat, wide roads of Jesi.
The final turn was 1km from the line, setting up an anticipated full gas bunch sprint with a slight incline on the final straight, suited to the strongest teams like UAE Team Emirates and Deceuninck – Quick-Step.
In the opening stages, seven riders went clear and pulled out 3-20 advantage early on.
Consisting of Davide Ballerini (Astana), Igor Boev (Gazprom-RusVelo), Ben King (Dimension Data), Mirco Maestri (Bardiani-CSF), Dayer Quintana (Nero Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM), Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) and Gijs Van Hoecke (CCC Team), the break were never allowed a substantial gap as the peloton closed it down to two minutes with 100km on the clock.
Bora-Hansgrohe took up the responsibility of keeping the escapees on the leash as they looked to set up Peter Sagan for victory.
Elia Viviani’s Deceuninck – Quick-Step also contributed to the pace, hoping to repeat the Italian champion’s victory from stage three.
The peloton allowed the front-seven to extend their advantage to two minutes with 50km to the line.
As the race approached the closing 20km, the breakaway began to break apart with the gap sitting at around 90 seconds.
Ballerini and Rojas took on the race as the peloton approached, pushing on as a duo as the remains of the break were caught.
Bora and Quick-Step kept the pace high on the approach to the final finishing lap, but the pair at the front were able to hold their advantage at a minute with 14km to the line.
Sagan positioned himself in sixth wheel behind his train, while Viviani sat further back in the peloton.
Ballerini pushed on alone but was caught at 3km, setting up a furious sprint.
Greg Van Avermaet moved up rapidly in the final straight, with Sagan and Viviani both locked together too far back.
Quick-Step led affairs heading into the final metres, as Max Richeze opening a huge lead-out sprint with Alaphilippe pinned firmly to his wheel.
The pair pulled out a slight gap to the sprinters behind and Alaphilippe hit the front and powered to the line.
His team-mate Viviani came up from behind with a huge turn of pace but left the effort too late, as Alaphilippe won an unusual sprint finish.
Adam Yates finish safely to hold his overall lead with just an individual time trial left to race.
Tirreno-Adriatico stage six: Matelica to Jesi (195km)
1. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, in 4-42-11
2. Davide Cimolai (Ita) Israel Cycling Academy
3. Elia Viviani (Ita) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
4. Clement Venturini (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
5. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
6. Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
7. Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
8. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team
9. Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (RSA) Dimension Data
10. Simone Consonni (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, all at same time
General classification after stage six
1. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, in 25-15-59
2. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 25 seconds
3. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team, at 35s
4. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 1-55
5. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 2-34
6. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky, at 2-39
7. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 2-46
8. Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 2-58
9. Simon Clarke (Aus) EF Education First, at 3-03
10. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 3-26