Tirreno-Adriatico (st. 2) / Paris-Nice (st. 5)
Good teamwork by Movistar's Italian squad keeps Colombian (9th) safe in long ride towards Pomarance; Nairo remains 22" behind Maglia Azzurra (now 7th). Gorka Izagirre also unscathed after sprint finish in Paris-Nice; Basque still 3rd overall before weekend's mountains
At the longest stage of the 52nd Tirreno-Adriatico (photo gallery), 229km from Camaiore to Pomarance, the eight Movistar Team riders had an only goal in getting Nairo Quintana safe through the first of two obstacles leading up to this weekend's mountains. With Moreno, Bennati and Oliveira putting on more obscure labours in the beginning of the stage, Dowsett and Amador took to the fore into the final series of climbs to successfully keep the man from Boyacá near the front. In the end, Castroviejo and Sütterlin kept an eye on the splits – one of those almost taking the Basque into an involuntary chase for the stage win itself.
A four-man escape forming up 4km from the finish line, with 'Castro' alongside race leader Damiano Caruso (BMC) and Luxembourg's Bob Jungels (QST), saw Welshman Geraint Thomas (SKY) further attacking to claim a solo stage win, 9" ahead of a selected peloton where Quintana took 9th. A result that denotes great attention from the 'Condor' (now 7th overall, 22" off BMC's Greg Van Avermaet), whose task for Friday will be getting through those last bumps -in another long journey, 204km, towards a slightly uphill finish in Montalto di Castro– before the Terminillo, the place he outstandingly conquered in 2015, looms on Saturday.
Paris-Nice: No difficulties for Gorka; mountains await
It wasn't quite as lively in the 75th Paris-Nice on Thursday, yet the 199.5km from Quincié-en-Beaujolais to Bourg-de-Péage (picture gallery) also required some attention before the mass spritn, won by André Greipel (LTS). Gorka Izagirre happily avoided any troubles and conserved his 3rd place overall, 47" behind Julian Alaphilippe (QST), before the mountains finally arrive from Friday with three spectacular stages starting with Friday's 194km from Aubagne to Fayence. The start will be uphill salida, with the Col de L'Espigoulier (Cat-1), followed by lumpy terrain and a very intense, final 60km that include two ascents of the Bourigaille (Cat-1) and a 'muur' finish in Fayence (Cat-2; 1.3km at 9.8% avg).