The Tirreno-Adriatico’s summit finish eventually did not create many differences. In what was a strange final climb due to the strong wind on Friday, on stage 5, Thibaut Pinot couldn’t really do anything else than follow the best up to the top of Sassotetto. The French climber focused on doing that and managed to stay in the wheel until the line, taking twelfth place within a group of seventeen riders. On the eve of the “muri” stage, he also climbed two places in the general classification (12th).
While the wind led to the cancellation of Paris-Nice’s stage 6 on Friday, it also proved to be a major factor in stage 5 of Tirreno-Adriatico. However, the race and the much-anticipated summit finish in Sassotetto did get maintained. The second fight between the GC riders was expected, but before that, Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Erik Fetter (Eolo-Kometa), Davide Ballerini (Soudal-QuickStep), Simon Guglielmi (Arkéa-Samsic), Florian Stork (Team DSM), Zdenek Stybar (Team Jayco AlUla) and Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) established the day’s breakaway. The American rider finally sat up early and let his break companions get a three-minute lead ahead of the bunch, while the race’s conditions became risky at times. “There was a strong wind today, which made the race hard”, explained Thierry Bricaud. “In the end, we also had bad weather. The conditions were not easy, but it was expected. Apart from the fact that it made it a bit dangerous for the riders, the wind mostly blocked the race because it mainly was a ¾ front wind. It certainly made the race nervous, but it did not break it apart”. A few riders did struggle with the gusts throughout the day, but no major accident occurred, while the last men from breakaway got caught with thirty kilometres to go.
“I would have liked to race a real mountain stage”, Thibaut Pinot
In a series of small hills, the peloton gradually narrowed and was reduced by a half as it approached the final climb of Sassotetto (10.8 km at 7.3%), also shortened by 1500 meters due to the wind. “Today, it was everything for Thibaut,” said Thierry. “We wanted him to approach the final climb as well as possible, without making too much effort beforehand, and to be well positioned to do a nice climb. His teammates did well in that regard.” Jake Stewart, Bruno Armirail and Quentin Pacher notably helped positioning the Frenchman before the final battle. “It was a nerve-wracking day,” he explained. “I felt pretty good, but I’m not the most comfortable in these conditions, and so I still spent a lot of energy before the bottom of the last climb”. The last climb was mostly done with a strong headwind. “It blocked the race a bit and prevented a big fight,” said Thierry. Damiano Caruso tried to attack with four kilometres to go, but the favourites’ group mainly reduced from the back before an explosive fight in the last kilometre and a half. In these circumstances, Thibaut Pinot made sure to hold the wheels to finish the stage in twelfth position, in the same time as the winner Primoz Roglic. “I am satisfied to be with the best, but I would have liked to race a real mountain stage for pure climbers”, he regretted.
On Friday he moved up to twelfth place overall, forty-one seconds behind the new leader Roglic, and around twenty seconds from the top 5. “We would have liked to enter the top-10 tonight, but circumstances mean that he remains just outside of it”, added Thierry. “Tomorrow is a very hilly stage, and everything is still possible. There are still twenty riders who can aim to make a very good GC, which will force some teams to make a hard race. Thibaut will try to gain positions overall, then depending on the race circumstances, we could also go for the stage win. Valentin is doing well, Quentin is getting better and better, there is plenty to do”. On the “walls” circuit in Osimo, where the short climbs will follow one another, the Groupama-FDJ leader will be able to leave it all on the road as the sprinters should be back in San Benedetto del Tronto on Sunday. “It is surely the hardest stage of the week”, concluded Thibaut. “I hope to be in good shape and that we can go up in the general classification, because we are still outside the top-10 and that is not what we came for. Since the team is going strong, it will be possible to make a lively race. We’ll need to do everything to have no regrets”.