Nairo Quintana (Movistar) looked head-and-shoulders above his general classification rivals in Tirreno-Adriatico on Saturday, winning the Italian race’s high mountain stage with a solo attack to take the overall lead.
British riders Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) had animated the action on the final climb to Terminillo, launching attacks to fragment the group of overall contenders. Thomas finished second, with Yates in third.
Thanks to his win, Colombian Quintana has overhauled Australian Rohan Dennis (BMC) at the top of the overall standings with Yates moving up to second at 33 seconds and leads the best young rider classification. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) is third overall.
The big climbing stage of the race had kicked off with a break consisting of Davide Ballerini (Androni Giocattoli), Romain Gioux (Novo Nordisk), Marko Kump (UAE Team Emirates), Matvey Mamykin (Katusha-Alpecin), Alan Marangoni (Nippo-Vini Fantini) and Mirco Maestri (Bardiani CSF).
The six riders were allowed some leeway during the stage, as it made its way towards the big showdown on the long climb to Terminillo.
Ballerini and Mamykin were the last two riders to survive from the escape group, but disaster struck on a gravelly corner as Mamykin slid out. The Russian slid straight across the road, under a roadside barrier and down a bank. Amazingly, he appeared largely unscathed and remounted before being caught by the bunch.
With no assistance, Ballerini was also soon caught as the pace started to be wound up by the GC riders’ teams. As the bunch was being whittled down by the pace, Michal Kiwatkowski (Team Sky), Simon Spilak (Katusha-Alpecin) and Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar) broke free.
Spilak looked the strongest, and dropped his two companions to go solo with 5km to go. The bunch’s speed was evidently too much for Astana leader Fabio Aru, who was dropped.
Yates and Thomas both put in accelerations, further fragmenting the GC contenders group. All the while, Quintana marked the main moves. Both Thomas and Quintana benefitted from being joined by their team-mates from the break.
Quintana bided his time, and attacked with 2km to go, passing Spilak and with Thomas in pursuit. Yates rode behind them alongside Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) with Dennis putting in a strong ride to restrict his time losses.
No one was going to catch Quintana, though, who simply rode away to take the victory on Terminillo – just as he did in 2015, but this time without the accompanying snowstorm.
Thomas came in just 18 seconds behind Quintana, and must be ruing Sky’s time loss in the opening team time trial due to technical problems which have prevented him from sitting in a podium position. He now sits in eighth overall, 1-23 adrift of Quintana – though he can console himself with that stage two victory.
After the finish, Quintana said: “I wasn’t sure of what I could do today as I had been sick a few days ago but our tactic was to have someone ahead before I launched my attack and that’s what happened with Castroviejo. The advantage I have on GC now is significant. It gives me some confidence ahead of the second half of the race.”
On Sunday, the riders will tackle a lumpy stage from Rieti to Fermo – ideal terrain for the classics focussed riders such as Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC). The race concludes on Tuesday with an individual time trial.
Tirreno-Adriatico 2017, stage four: Montaldo di Castro to Terminillo, 177km
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, in 5-27-22
2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, at 18 secs
3. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 24 secs
4. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac, at same time
5. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha-Alpecin, at 29 secs
6. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 41 secs
7. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale
8. Mikel Landa (Esp) Team Sky, at same time
9. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ, at 46 secs
10. Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 51 secs
General classification after stage four
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, in 16-34-46
2. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 33 secs
3. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ, at 56 secs
4. Jonathan Castroviejo (Esp) Movistar, at 1-01
5. Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing, at 1-06
6. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 1-19
7. Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 1-19
8. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, at 1-23
9. Daniel Moreno (Esp) Movistar, at 1-27
10. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 1-29