Tirreno (st. 2) / Paris-Nice (st. 4)
Valverde 5th against big stars on Tirreno st. 2 sprint, anticipated by Stybar's (EQS) huge, late attack; Izagirre stays in 4th overall at Paris-Nice before huge final weekend of mountains
The man who does it all was again the best of the GC contenders in Tirreno-Adriatico today, in the stage after a difficult, opening team time trial for his Movistar Team (10th place). At Pomarance's finish, the Spanish road champion took 5th into a world-class elite group, anticipated by a well-timed attack from Zdenek Stybar (EQS). The Murcia-based rider was only beaten by two top sprinters -Sagan (TNK) and Boasson Hagen (DDD)-, plus Australian Simon Clarke (CPT).
The telephone squad, which always kept 'Bala' under protection with work from Sutherland, Dowsett, Sütterlin, Oliveira and Amador, left him in company of Dani Moreno into the last 10km uphill and set Giovanni Visconti on the attack into one of the flat sections between the steepest slopes, 5km from the line. As the Italian was quickly caught, Diego Ulissi (LAM), into the last uphill section, and the successful Stybar did their best to avoid the fastmen taking their part today.
The 'Race of the Two Seas' will tackle two flatter finishes on Friday and Saturday, in Montalto di Castro and Foligno, prelude to Sunday's crucial mountain stage towards the Monte San Vicino.
Paris-Nice: A weekend full of mountains
Over in France, the peloton covering the route from Paris to Nice looks towards the 18 rated climbs scheduled for the last three days of racing, from Friday to Sunday, in a mix of amazement and excitement. Stage five tomorrow will bring 'half' of the legendary Mont-Ventoux – riders to climb towards Chalet-Reynard (Cat-1) – plus two small, yet steep Cat-2 ascents en route to Salon-en-Provence.
Thursday's finish in Romans-sur-Isère brought another selected sprint conquered, this time without any shade of doubt, by Nacer Bouhanni (COF). In turn, Ion Izagirre comfortably kept his 4th spot overall, 19" behind Matthews (OGE), as his KOM jersey was taken over by Evaldas Siskevicius (DMP), present in the day's break. The Movistar riders stay, as they have done ever since Sunday, on top of the teams' classification.