All eyes were on Elia Viviani, wearing the distinctive tri-color Italian national champion’s jersey, but instead his Deceuninck-Quick-Step teammate Julian Alaphilippe won the bunch sprint in stage 6 at Tirreno-Adriatico Monday.
“I saw the 200 meters to go [sign] and just went full-gas … It was incredible,” said Alaphilippe. “[This race] was already perfect with my [stage 2] victory and the victory of Elia [Viviani]; this is just something more like a little bonus.”
Davide Cimolai (Israel Cycling Academy) was second ahead of Viviani who celebrated his French teammate’s victory, rolling home third.
Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) retained his overall race lead with one stage remaining in the seven-day Italian race.
“The last K was pretty much uphill — yeah it wasn’t steep but we know [Alaphilippe] can sprint uphill,” Yates said of the Frenchman’s stage win. “A finish like this is perfect for him.”
Having chased the early breakaway throughout the 195-kilometer stage, the peloton seemed a bit fatigued when it finally caught Astana’s Davide Ballerini with three kilometers to go.
Along the way, Alaphilippe had consulted with his team’s key sprinter Viviani and made a plan for the finish.
“We wanted to go a good lead-out for Elia [Viviani], but he told me in the last lap that if you want to do the sprint you can,” Alaphilippe said. “I said, ‘OK, I can be your last lead-out man.'”
Deceuninck-Quick-Step was all over the front of the peloton to set up the sprint.
Zdenek Stybar was the first rider in blue, bringing the sprint into the final kilometer. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) was on his wheel, a bit too far up in the field. This forced the Slovak champion to drift back after Stybar swung off.
Danish champion Michael Morkov was the next Deceuninck rider to take the front. Then, Max Richeze did the final pull with Alaphilippe on his wheel.
Meanwhile, Viviani had switched wheels to follow Sagan, which left him too far back in the peloton when Greg Van Avermaet (CCC) started the sprint.
Alaphilippe’s positioning was perfect, and he took his sixth win of the season.
“I knew I can do a good sprint,” he added. “Especially in the final like this with a hard day before. My team did an impressive job to control the race especially in the final laps.”
One stage of racing remains in Tirreno-Adriatico, a 10-kilometer individual time trial around San Benedetto del Tronto. Yates holds the blue leader’s jersey by 25 seconds over Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma). However, he is unsure if he can hang on to win the overall.
“Like I said yesterday, this time trial doesn’t suit me and the gap isn’t so big but I’ll try my best,” Yates said.