After holding back on yesterday’s finish, there was no stopping the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, in today’s finale. With breakneck speeds in the peloton in the final 10km, the BORA-hansgrohe riders drove the pace high and brought the Slovak rider to another win – making it look easy as only Peter can.
A long descent eased riders into the day’s racing – with the parcours pointing downward for most of the first 40km of the stage, before a flat run in to the first climb. With the easy part over, it was undulating for the remainder of the 204km stage, with two categorised climbs to cross before the ride to the finish in Montaldo di Castro. The flat finale was earmarked for the fast men, but a kick at the finish still had the potential to trouble the out and out sprinters.
With the expected bunch sprint finish, the teams of the fast men were more relaxed when the break went up the road early on in the day. With some climbs before the run in to the finish, there was plenty of time to make the catch and lay claim to the stage win – the gap rising to more than three minutes and holding steady for much of the stage. With the efforts of the climbs kicking in however, the break started to fade – the day’s intermediate sprint points already mopped up, it was unlikely the escape was going to last until the end.
With 25km remaining, the gap had shrunk to just 15 seconds, the BORA-hansgrohe riders ramping up the pace in preparation for the finale. Just before the 15km mark, the catch was well and truly made, with the chasing peloton reaching incredible speeds as the sprint teams worked to deliver their rider to the line. Throughout the finale, it was clear that the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, was in complete control, his teammates took charge of the peloton and driving the pace to a speed only the Slovak could maintain. Blasting past the remainder of the field, there was no doubting who was going to take the win today. Peter took the win – making it look like his rivals were standing still.
In no doubt as to how he got to the finale in such a strong position for his 91st career win, Peter was quick to say it was all down to his BORA-hansgrohe teammates. “I’d like to thank my teammates for their great job today! We are all very happy with this victory. BORA-hansgrohe is the best team! Today was a windy day and everybody was afraid of the wind in the last 50km, but in tht end, nothing happened. I imagine the peloton reached the finish without legs, but the positive aspect was that in the last 2km there was a bit of crosswind, so a lot of riders lined up, and that made positioning much easier. However, as I said before, this season has just started and I hope this isn’t my last victory.”
Team Coach, Patxi Vila, knew how much the win relied on teamwork and the right tactics. “When you win, it’s obviously a good day. It was a very windy stage the whole day, so there was tension in the bunch, and our guys had to stay together and concentrate. I have to say they all did an excellent job, and we put Cesare Benedetti to work with BMC, Quick-Step Floors and Dimension Data. Last year, in this same stage, we made a tactical mistake and we learned from it so that this year we could get the win. It feels very nice to be back winning and after Strade Bianche, where Peter didn’t feel so well, it is good to be back on track.”
A shorter stage awaits riders on Saturday, but this is by no means an easy day – quite the opposite. The race’s Queen Stage is a comparatively short 187km in length, but sees two tough categorised climbs before the summit finish in Terminillo. This stage will be the one where the GC riders will really look to make their presence felt.