Mathieu van der Poel has made a habit so far this season of winning when he says he won't, but today he didn't need an excuse as he set off on a 50km solo attack to claim stage five of Tirreno-Adriatico. The sooner he was across the line the sooner he was out of the miserable weather.
"I attacked from afar because I was cold. I still felt good up to twenty kilometres to go," Van der Poel said after the stage, as good a reason as any to win when you've won as much as the Dutchman already has in his career.
It nearly didn't happen, however, as Van der Poel was nearly out-Van-der-Poel-ed by Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) who came close to closing a three-minute deficit inside the final 20km, falling just short as he finished only 10 seconds behind the Alpecin-Fenix star.
"In the last kilometers I was completely empty," Van der Poel said of how quickly he was losing ground to the Tour de France champion in the finale. "I was told that Pogačar was coming, but I was not even able to listen. I just wanted to get to the finish line as quickly as possible."
As for Pogačar, another stage win would only have been the cherry on top, his primary objective being to put more time into his closest rival on GC, Jumbo-Visma's Wout van Aert.
"I only thought about my classification, not about the stage victory", Pogačar said afterwards, having increased his lead from 35 seconds to 1-15.
"I chose to attack [where I did] because I saw that there was an opportunity to drop Wout van Aert. Despite the icy cold I had good legs and that's why I tried. I am very happy with that. I never thought that I would get so close to Van der Poel."
Pogačar isn't celebrating just yet, with his Slovenian compatriot Primož Roglič losing the Paris-Nice overall on the final stage in dramatic circumstances, the UAE Team Emirates rider knows that until he's on the top step of the final podium, the job isn't yet completed.
"Anything can still happen, but I hope everything will go well until the end. I am very happy with the lead I have over Wout for the time trial, but I will have to stay focused until the finish of that final time trial."
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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