Tadej Pogačar held off Simon Yates on the summit finish climb to take stage four and the overall lead at Tirreno-Adriatico.
The Slovenian attacked on the slopes to the summit finish, Yates (BikeExchange) soon setting off in pursuit but unable to bridge the gap as the UAE Team Emirates rider continued his strong start to the season.
After Yates came across the line six seconds after Pogačar, Sergio Higuita (EF-Nippo) led the remnants of the GC over the finish 29 seconds in arrears.
Geraint Thomas had tried his own move before attempting to stick with Pogačar’s attack, while Bernal also made a move beforehand, but the Ineos duo lost more time as they attempted to claw some back in the overall classification, as did world champion Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step).
Pogačar now leads Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Sergio Higuita by 35 seconds, the Belgian putting in a strong showing on the climb, leading from the front to try and protect his leader’s jersey, and has kept himself within touching distance ahead of a punchy stage five that should entertain and the final stage seven time trial.
How it happened
Mattia Bais (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) and Mads Würtz Schmidt (Israel Start-Up Nation) were the first two on the offensive after the flag drop, Benjamin Thomas (Groupama-FDJ) and Emil Vinjebo (Qhubeka-Assos) soon joining them. They soon had an advantage of 4-20 as the peloton settled in.
After Vinjebo was momentarily distanced, Marco Canola (Gazprom-RusVelo) also chased up to make it a move of five and after 40km of racing, they had a gap of nine minutes.
Things were calm a UAE Team Emirates and Jumbo-Visma controlled the peloton. At 50km to go the break split up the HC-category Passo Capanelle, with Vinjebo and Canola dropping off as Bahrain-Victorious moved to the front.
Würtz Schmidt then went off alone, reaching the summit first before Thomas and Bais got back on. Their advantage was down to four minutes with 15km to go and approaching the final climb to the finish.
Thomas soon attacked the leaders, Würtz Schmidt able to follow and Bais dropped, Vinjebo and Canola caught by the peloton as they started the ascent.
Van der Poel was dropped as Ineos took it up on the front, Würtz Schmidt attacking as the peloton brought the escapees’ gap down to around the three-minute mark, Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) making his own move, jumping off the front of the peloton behind.
Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) was the next casualty, distanced from the bunch, Ilnur Zakarin (GazProm-RusVelo) soon following suit.
Ineos still had numbers on the front as Egan Bernal eyed moving up the GC, as Pogačar’s last man Davide Formolo dropped.
Würtz Schmidt was still out ahead, Ciccone reeled back in, before Bernal launched his attack with 8km remaining. Pogačar responded well, riding up from a few wheels back and followed by Mikel Landa. Van Aert soon led the rest of the GC group back as Würtz Schmidt’s gap was down to under two minutes.
Geraint Thomas then had a dig, Bais reeled in now, as the GC group was whittled down further to the main men. Thomas pushed on as Van Aert led the chase behind, catching Thomas from the break and Würtz Schmidt now only a minute up the road, with 6km to go.
Pogačar then attacked with Thomas in sight, the Brit hanging onto the Slovenian, catching Würtz Schmidt before dropping the Ineos rider and going off alone.
Bernal then responded, hitting out again and taking Yates and Landa with him. Pogačar’s advantage was now 15 seconds as Alaphilippe was dropped.
The race had exploded, Higuita, Quintana and Almeida chasing Bernal, as Van Aert chased them, the groups slowly coming back together before Yates attacked, setting off in pursuit of the Tour de France champion.
The Brit soon was only 10 seconds behind Pogačar, but the Slovenian held firm, the main GC group now 20 seconds further in arrears. Thomas and Bernal had been distanced, paying for their earlier efforts, the Colombian waiting up to help his team-mate.
Yates just couldn’t quite close the gap as Pogačar sailed across the line to take the stage win and the overall lead, and will now defend it on a tricky stage tomorrow before trying to hold off Wout van Aert, 35 seconds behind, in the final time trial.
Tirreno-Adriatico 2021, stage four: Terni to Prati di Tivo (148km)
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 3-51-24
2. Simon Yates (GBr) BikeExchange, at six seconds
3. Sergio Higuita (Col) EF Education-Nippo, at 29s
4. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain-Victorious, at same time
5. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkéa-Samsic, at 31s
6. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 35s
7. Matteo Fabbro (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 42s
8. Simon Carr (GBr) EF Education-Nippo, at same time
9. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, at 45s
10. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana – Premier Tech, at same time
General classification after stage four
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 17-53-21
2. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, at 35 seconds
3. Sergio Higuita (Col) EF Education-Nippo, at same time
4. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain-Victorious, at 38s
5. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkéa-Samsic, at 41s
6. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 45s
7. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana – Premier Tech, at 55s
8. Simon Carr (GBr) EF Education-Nippo, at 1-03
9. Matteo Fabbro (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-12
10. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-25