Stybar retains the blue jersey in Tirreno-Adriatico
The 30-year-old Czech continues to lead the general classification of the Italian World Tour race after the longest stage of this edition.
The sun welcomed the riders in Montalto di Castro, at the start of stage four in Tirreno-Adriatico, a 222-km long test which could have changed some things in the standings. Within the first kilometers of this lumpy day, four riders broke free: Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18), Francesco Manuel Bongiorno (Bardiani), Valerio Conti (Lampre-Merida) and Ricardo Vilela (Caja Rural). Of these, Benedetti went for the KOM points on the first three categorized climbs of the day, which helped him top the green jersey ranking at the end of the stage.
As on the previous day, Etixx – Quick-Step was again at the front, protecting overall leader Zdenek Stybar, who was enjoying a 9-second cushion over his closest opponents. Inside the final 30 kilometers, Trek-Segafredo took it to the front in an attempt to blow up the race, and many riders began to drop, but not Stybar, who was well-positioned on the Montefalco climb (3.1 km, 18% maximum gradient), thanks to the effort put in earlier by his teammates.
Around 35-40 riders made it over the top and it looked like the win will be taken following a bunch sprint, but it wasn't the case, as a small group managed to snap the elastic and get a 10-second gap. From there, with less than 3 kilometers remaining, Steven Cummings (Dimension Data) accelerated and managed to give the others the slip, taking the victory ahead of Salvatore Puccio (Team Sky) and teammate Natnael Berhane.
The peloton arrived in Foligno 25 seconds later, and Zdenek Stybar was there, finishing 10th and keeping his leader's jersey, which he'll display on Sunday for the third stage in a row. It was a good day also for two other Etixx – Quick-Step riders, Bob Jungels – who's first in the white jersey rankings – and Gianluca Brambilla – as both moved up in the GC, with three stages to go.
For Zdenek, who got the blue jersey after his spectacular victory in Pomarance, the toughest test of the race will await tomorrow, but he is confident that he can put in another strong ride: "It's been a long and rough stage in the saddle, with quite a lot of headwind, but the guys were fantastic and helped me all the time. I'm glad that I'll get to wear the blue jersey for one more day and even though a mountain top finish is in store, we will give our best there."
"Once again we had a fantastic team, as Yves Lampaert, Julien Vermote and Tony Martin controlled the whole stage. In the end it was up to us to prove we can climb with the best and this turned out well. We kept the jerseys and this gives us more confidence for tomorrow. My legs feel pretty good, but I'm realistic that on such a long ascent it will be difficult to stay with the pure climbers. I know it's going to be hard, but as I said a couple of days ago, I'm not willing to give up this jersey without a fight", said Bob Jungels of Sunday's stage, which will finish on Monte San Vicino, a 13-km long ascent which averages 6.6%.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele