Chris Froome (Sky) moved closer to winning the Tirreno-Adriatico this afternoon in Chieti’s narrow streets. He stormed up through the Abruzzo city, seconds behind stage winner Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha), but nearly half-a-minute ahead of overnight leader Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
“One thing I learnt from racing, especially from [Alberto] Contador, is that it’s really not over until it’s over,” Froome said in a press conference. “I’m expecting that tomorrow they are going to throw everything at us… Twenty seconds is a good buffer to have, but it’s definitely not over until it’s over.”
The 48th edition of the Italian stage race will be over on Tuesday with a 9.2km time trial. Froome leads Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) by 20 seconds. Kwiatkowski sits in fourth at 24 seconds.
A Prati di Tivo repeat
Just as yesterday on the mountain stage to Prati di Tivo, Sky controlled.
“It was a really hard day, we started riding good tempo at 50km to go to put pressure on the leader’s jersey,” Froome continued. “The plan on the final two climbs was to keep the pressure up and try to get some distance between myself and the leader.”
After the Passo Lanciano at 1306m, Chieti local Dario Cataldo led Sergio Henao, Rigoberto Urán and Froome. They closed the gap on the remaining escapee, Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida) with 6.2km to race and just as the road started to kick leading into the finish.
Stage favourite Peter Sagan (Cannondale) fell behind. The group shrunk to 25 to 20 riders by 5.5km. Contador’s had Roman Kreuziger, but Kwiatkowski had just lost Tony Martin.
In a desperate bid for time, Contador sprinted for bonus seconds, taking an addition two seconds over Froome who placed third. Froome said he misjudged the line, thinking it was at the top of the small climb and not just afterwards.
The road dropped down and then, at 2km left, shot up.
“I studied the stage, which was the same as last year,” Rodríguez explained. “Where I started this year was where I was dropped last year.”
Rodríguez fired free at 1.3km, near were the city road ramps up 19%. Froome took up the work, not to catch Rodríguez, but to distance Kwiatkowski. Nibali briefly lost ground, but then clawed his way back.
Froome placed sixth on the stage, eight seconds behind. He gained the blue jersey, however. If he wins, it will add to the red one he won in the Tour of Oman. His GC rivals will be concerned.
“Everyone has their own programmes,” Urán told Cycling Weekly. “Chris has good form now, but some days the form is there, some days you might be off.”
Tirreno-Adriatico continues with an undulating stage around Porto Sant’Elpidio tomorrow. The final day ends with a 9.2km time trial on the Adriatic coast in San Benedetto del Tronto. Froome looks likely to win, but as he says, it’s not over until it’s over.
Tirreno-Adriatico 2013, stage five: Ortona to Chieti, 230km
1. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha in 6-06-43
2. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Blanco at 8 secs
3. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo-Tinkoff
4. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia
5. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack-Leopard
6. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky at same time
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 17 secs
8. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida at 22 secs
9. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Saxo-Tinkoff at same time
10. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp at 28 secs
Overall classification after stage five
1. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo- Tinkoff at 20 secs
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 20 secs
4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 24 secs
5. Christopher Horner (USA) Radioshack-Leopard at 37 secs
6. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia at 52 secs
7. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 55 secs
8. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Sky at 57 secs
9. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Saxo-Tinkoff at 1-27
10. Sergio Henao (Col) Sky at 1-51
Chris Froome in the leader’s jersey
: Stage reports
Stage four: Froome wins; Kwiatkowski leads
Stage three: Sagan beats Cavendish and Greipel
Stage two: Goss wins on wet stage
Stage one: Mark Cavendish leads Tirreno with team time trial win