Tadej Pogačar attacked in the final 500 metres to win stage four of Tirreno-Adriatico, and with it move into the race's lead.
The UAE-Team Emirates rider marked a series of half-hearted efforts in the last few kilometres before launching his winning move in the final stretches on the finishing climb.
He crossed the line in Bellante two seconds ahead of Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) to supersede previous race leader and stage one victor Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) at the summit of the general classification.
It is the fifth time this season that Pogačar has put his hands in the air, the 23-year-old most recently winning Strade Bianche and before that winning two stages and the GC at the UAE Tour.
After the first rolling stage of the race, Pogačar leads Evenepoel in the GC standings by nine seconds with three stages still to go.
Pogačar's win was UAE-Team Emirates' second of the day after Brandon McNulty triumphed at Paris-Nice following a 38km solo attack.
How it unfolded
The fourth stage was an undulating affair from start to finish, packing in 202km that included a number of climbs to tempt puncheurs.
It was therefore no surprise that the breakaway was swamped with such riders, Warren Barguil (Arkéa Samsic), Lilian Calmejane (AG2R Citroën Team) and Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) the standout names in the break.
They were joined by Chris Hamilton of Team DSM, EF Education-Easy Post's Jonathan Caicedo, Jasha Sutterlin (Bahrain-Victorious), Jhonatan Restrepo (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli), Tsgabu Grmay (BikeExchange–Jayco), Einer Rubio (Movistar) and Diego Rosa (Eolo-Kometa).
Their gap hovered between the five and six minute range for much of the first few hours, until teams like QuickStep - Alpha Vinyl and Ineos Grenadiers reduced that gap ahead of the finishing circuit that the riders would lap three times, including going up and over the climb of Bellante, a 4.2km moderate incline.
Onto the first ascent and the breakaway fractured rapidly with their lead sitting at less than two minutes, while Tao Geoghegan Hart was well placed for Ineos and both Julian Alaphilippe and Evenepoel were looking ominous upfront for Quick-Step.
Midway up the climb, Simmons attacked his fellow escapees and he immediately built a gap, but with 42km separating him from the finish line, he knew it would require a monumental effort to prove victorious.
Back in the peloton and Alaphilippe accelerated with Evenepoel and race leader Filippo Ganna on his wheel, but Pogačar initially remained unnerved by the move.
Seconds later, all four minus Alaphilippe built a gap alongside Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe), the quartet stretching an advantage of just over 20 seconds to the reduced peloton while Simmons steadily extended his own advantage.
By the time the second and penultimate ascent arrived, the four had been caught by the peloton, but Simmons' gap was at 45 seconds, the American riding well as he fought to keep the climbers and GC riders at distance.
But Simmons was caught by the approaching peloton at 14km to go, Valentin Ferron of TotalEnergies subsequently trying his fortune and even though the Frenchman was permitted seven kilometres out front alone, the peloton were preparing for the final climb to determine who would win the stage.
Ferron caught, Jumbo-Visma took up proceedings at the head of the peloton but it wasn't until 3km to go that a first serious attack emerged, Miguel Ángel López of Astana bringing Pogačar with him. The rest of the reduced peloton, however, caught up even as Olympic champion Richard Carapaz struggled for Ineos Grenadiers.
At 2.3km to go Evenepoel attacked from the middle of the peloton, drawing Pogačar and others with him, but the Belgian was unable to eek out a gap. López then went again in the latest counter-attack, Marc Soler (UAE-Team Emirates) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) also rolling a dice.
With just over a kilometre until the finish line, Richie Porte (Ineos Grenadiers) headed the final select group, but no move arose until Victor Lafay of Cofidis got out of his saddle to increase the speed.
Behind the Frenchman, though, was Pogačar who sprinted back Lafay and instantly built an irretrievable gap, sprinting around the final few bends and celebrating yet another victory 10 metres from the line.
Lafay came home two seconds in arrears alongside Vingegaard and Evenepoel, with nine riders a further three seconds back including Geoghegan Hart, Enric Mas (Movistar) and Giulio Ciccone.
"After a hard effort from the day - we pulled all day - I was thinking if I don't give it a go it would be a bad day for us," Pogačar said afrerwards. "We did everything right and in the end it was a good day for the victory.
"There are a lot of hard days until the finish. Tomorrow is similar to today, so we need to be really concentrated again, and then the day after it is the Queen stage that will decide everything."
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE-Team Emirates in 4-48.39
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 2 secs
3. Victor Lafay (Fra) Cofidis
4. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpa Vinyl, all at same time
5. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 5 secs
6. Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
7. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar
8. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe
9. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain-Victorious
10. Jai Hindley (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe, all at same time
General classification after stage four
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE-Team Emirates in 14-36.47
2. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl at 9 secs
3. Filippo Ganna (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers, at 21 secs
4. Thymen Arensman (Ned) Team DSM, at 36 secs
5. Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 43 secs
6. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 45 secs
7. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana-Qazaqstan, at 50 secs
8. Marc Soler (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, at 56 secs
9. Richie Porte (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-02
10. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-04
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Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.
Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.
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