Tadej Pogacar was fastest both up the mountains and down them as he won the sixth stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico on Saturday to increase his overall lead.
The action was concentrated on two climbs up Monte Carpegna in the final 32 kilometres of a 215 kilometre stage from Apecchio to the town of Carpegna.
While Pogacar, who started the day nine seconds ahead of Belgian Remco Evenepoel, stayed in the leader’s blue jersey, the places behind him were shaken up.
As the peloton disintegrated on the first ascent, Pogacar, a Slovenia who rides for Team UAE, was part of a 21-rider group that overhauled a long breakaway.
On the second climb, Pogacar attacked and left his rivals behind.
Jonas Vingegaard a Dane who rides for Jumbo and Spaniard Mikel Landa of Bahrain stayed with Pogacar longest but were dropped some four kilometres from the top.
“I had good legs,” said Pogacar. “We decided to go for it. I went at my best pace to the top. I tried to get warm. It was super cold today.”
Pogacar increased his lead on a tricky, snow-lined descent where others struggled.
Richie Porte, an Australian veteran with Ineos, missed a corner while Enric Mas, a Spaniard with Movistar, crashed.
Vingegaard complained at the finish that there was gravel on the road left behind by melting snow.
Pogacar finished one minutes and three seconds ahead of Vingegaard and Landa.
Porte was another 31 seconds back in fourth.
All three moved up the standings. Vingegaard, who finished second to Pogacar in last year’s Tour de France, occupies the same position at 1min 52sec, Landa is third and Porte fourth.
Pogacar thanked his team-mates.
“When the guys are pulling all day into the headwind for 200km, to take the stage win on such an important day is a good feeling,” he said
The race ends Sunday with a mostly flat 159km circuit that starts and ends in Adriatic port San Benedetto Del Tronto.
Pogacar looks assured of retaining the title and continuing a dominant start to the season.
“We need to keep calm one more stage,” Pogacar said.
This is his third race of the season and he won the first two, the UAE Tour and the Strade Bianche, a one-day classic.
Pogacar said he intends to repay the debt by working for his team’s German sprinter Pascal Ackermann “if he has recovered from these days” in the mountains.