With a commanding solo victory on stage 5, Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) moved into the driving seat for the overall classification at Tirreno-Adriatico but the Bury man is still cautious about his chances.
The Sassotetto summit finish was the last mountain test of the Italian race with a sprint day, a classics-style stage, and a time trial remaining. Yates’ win propelled him up the standings and into the leader’s jersey, but his advantage is just 16 seconds over Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) and 39 seconds over Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers).
Yates readily admitted that the test against the clock was not his “strongest point” and the 10-kilometre final stage will be a big hurdle for taking hold of the trident trophy come Monday.
“Today was a big opportunity to take the jersey and to take some time, with the time trial on the last day I need a good buffer,” he said.
“I am very wary because I know it will be seconds that this race is won by, so I just have to try to do my best now in the next stages.”
As the riders approached the toughest gradients on the Sassotetto on stage 5, the GC favourites sought to test the mettle of their rivals. With race leader Michael Woods isolated by the efforts, Yates took his chance with just 4.5 kilometres remaining. Unlike his fellow competitors, Yates was able to hold onto his advantage and subsequently build on it, aided by the disunity in the chasing group behind.
Yates eventually crossed the line 35 seconds ahead of Thomas and Majka, with the up and coming Aleksandr Vlasov a further four seconds behind.
“It was a really good day, a lot of good work from the team and I knew I had good legs already from yesterday,” said Yates.
“It was already a fast pace first by EF Pro Cycling and then by Astana Pro Cycling. Majka attacked to really start the show, I saw an opportunity and really took it. I saw straight away that I had a gap so just went full gas.”