Gilbert blasts ahead in suspenseful Tirreno-Adriatico finish
Philippe Gilbert, stage winner, Tirreno-Adriatico 2011, stage five
Belgian Philippe Gilbert shot ahead to steal the Tirreno-Adriatico stage win from a two-man escape today in Castelraimondo, Italy. He left behind a group of favourites, including Australian Cadel Evans, who took the overall lead from Robert Gesink.
"These types of short climbs, two to three kilometres long, are ideal," said Gilbert, "The only thing today was that the escape today had a good gap on us, still a minute near the end."
The stage today from Chieti to Castelraimondo was a leg-buster, 244 kilometres and numerous climbs. Making matters worse, it came one day after a 240-kilometre mid-moutain stage and the weather had deteriorated. The two back-to-back stages, however, showed Gilbert to be the top attacker for Milano-Sanremo. The race is next Saturday, covers nearly 300 kilometres and ends with a series of short climbs.
Gilbert proved on the final Gagliole climb today he has the strength to manage San Remo's Poggio and Cipressa climbs. Over the Gagliole, with 6.5 kilometres to race, he placed himself with 10 others, including Evans, Damiano Cunego, Michele Scarponi, Ivan Basso, Vincenzo Nibali and Thomas Löfkvist.
They dropped race leader Gesink - who chased with Giovanni Visconti - and chased a two-man escape, Davide Malacarne and Andrey Amador. Wout Poels (Vacansoleil) attacked in the final kilometre to catch the leading duo, but Gilbert of team OmegaPharma-Lotto remained calm.
"I was committed not to try that early," Gilbert added. "If I had a team-mate, I would have sent him to the front, but I had to rely on my experience in these types of finishes. I was able to get them at the last 50 metres."
Cunego gained bonus second with his third place finish behind Poels, but not enough to surpass Evans. Evans started the day 10 seconds down on Gesink and now leads by two seconds on Basso, three on Cunego and five on Scarponi and Gesink.
"It was a little hard to calculate this final, with the climbs and descents, the tight roads, slightly damp. Gesink was somewhat isolated and he suffered from this," said Evans.
"We are all close, and tomorrow is another hard stage. I will see what I can do, if I have a chance for the classification."
Evans has two more stages left to win his first race overall since Coppi & Bartali in 2008. Tomorrow's stage finishes in Macerata after a demanding 182 kilometres and the race concludes with a 9.3-kilometre time trail Sunday - both suit Evans.
Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen and Evan's BMC Racing team-mate, Mauro Santambrogio both pulled out today. Santambrogio did not start due to a tooth infection. Boasson Hagen, who wants to win San Remo, was not feeling well and pulled out mid-way into the stage.
Tirreno-Adriatico 2011, stage five: Chieti to Castelraimondo, 240km
1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
2. Wout Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM
3. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-ISD
4. Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Katusha
5. Andrey Amador (CR) Movistar Team all same time
Overall classification after stage five
1. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
2. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 2 secs
3. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-ISD at 3 secs
4. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD at 5 secs
5. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 5 secs
Cadel Evans takes the race lead