Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) snatched a dramatic victory after a scintillating, chaotic stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, Saturday.
The Kazakh rider recovered from sliding out on a bend in the final kilometers of the race to take the sprint ahead of Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), and teammate Jakob Fuglsang. In finishing on the same time, Yates and Roglic retained their positions in first and second of the overall.
The 221-kilometer stage from Folignio to Fossombrone looked like that of a classic, packed with punchy hills on narrow, technical roads. The 20km finishing circuit featured a double pass over the Muro dei Cappuccini, a short double-digit climb with its crest just 6km before the finish line.
A large breakaway group went away early in the stage and were allowed a large lead, before being caught with 40km to go. Shortly after coming together, the race hit the steep climb to Monteguiduccio, and the peloton splintered, and Lutsenko clipped off the front.
An elite group made up of Fuglsang, Yates, Roglic, Simon Clarke (EF-Education First), Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step), and Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) were next on the road behind Lutsenko, but failed to work together, despite the efforts of Alaphilippe and Dumoulin to drive the pace.
As the race entered the decisive final circuit, Lutsenko had built a 30-second lead over the chasers. Despite crashing on the first descent from the Muro dei Cappuccini, he managed to extend this to nearly one minute as he approached the second ascent of the climb.
Behind Lutsenko, the group of GC men that had been chasing were absorbed into the now-reduced peloton.
Roglic took the initiative on the final climb, which fell only 10km from the line. The Slovenian attacked hard and drew out Fuglsang and Yates, dropping pre-stage favorite Alaphilippe. The trio crested the final climb together, and Yates and Roglic pushed the pace to try to catch Lutsenko, who by now had less than 30 seconds of a gap. Fuglsang sat in and disrupted their efforts, buying time for teammate Lutsenko.
Lutsenko looked as though he’d manage to hold on to his lead in the final kilometers, despite the gap rapidly reducing and hovering at around 10 seconds. However, his wheels slid from beneath him on a sharp bend, and the Kazakh was caught by Roglic, Yates and Fuglsang with just 1km remaining. Nevertheless, he retained the composure to stick with the trio as the race entered the long final straight to the line.
Roglic was maneuvered into leading out the sprint into the headwind, and Lutsenko came around him in the final seconds to win by the slimmest of margins, with Roglic and Yates taking second and third respectively.
“I crashed twice in the last 20km,” said Lutsenko. “It made it very difficult for me. Fortunately, there was my teammate, Jakob Fuglsang, in the three-man group behind. I crashed again so I’m really happy that I made up with a stage win for this very bad day. It gives me more motivation for tomorrow and the big classics.”
Stage 5, Sunday, is a 180km hilly route, with a two-step 5km climb to the line featuring pitches of 19 percent. Yates holds a seven-second advantage over Roglic on GC, with Dumoulin 50 seconds off the lead.
Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) abandoned the race mid-way through the stage, citing stomach complaints.