'I wasn't the first choice,' says Primož Roglič after titanic Tirreno-Adriatico stage four clash
Primož Roglič won stage four at Tirreno-Adriatico after getting a last-minute call to action when his Jumbo-Visma team-mate Wout Van Aert crashed.
Van Aert clashed with Tom Pidcock on the approach to the final climb to the finish, having completed three circuits around Tortoreto on the Adriatic coast. Both riders, who ranked among the pre-stage favourites, went down hard, taking themselves out of stage contention.
"I was not the first man," Roglic admitted afterwards. "Normally we would go with Wout, but he was unlucky. So we could change the plan, and then I go for it at the end. It's always nice to win."
Jumbo-Visma had been active throughout the three finishing circuits, each featuring a 4.6km climb, and Roglič took the helm, outsprinting Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quick Step) and Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates), following a number of hard efforts from riders including Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost).
Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) ceded his lead to Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) after the big Italian cracked on the final slopes. Kämna leads Roglič by six seconds, with João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) a further two seconds back. Mathieu Van Der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) was another big name who was unable to stay with the pace, admitting post-stage that he was not yet on great form.
The stage, which was the longest of the race at 218km, began well inland at Greccio, heading east on a lumpy traverse across the Apennines to Tortoreto, where they faced three 17km laps of a closed circuit, taking in the finishing climb each time.
The peloton seemed focused only on the finishing circuit and allowed things to settle quickly – it only took a few kilometres for the early break to establish itself. Five riders – Valerio Conti (Corratec), Mads Würtz Schmidt (Israel-PremierTech), Lukas Eriksson (Tudo Pro Cycling), Filippo Magli (Green Project-Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè) and Davide Bais (Eolo-Kometa) prized themselves clear and set about building a gap that quickly eked itself out to seven minutes.
At one point Eriksson took over the virtual GC lead from Ganna, but it was clear the peloton were keeping a close eye on the break and it was eventually reeled in with around 70km to ride, not long before the Tortoreto circuit began.
The race became ever livelier as the circuits progressed, and although the peloton slowly became ever-more threadbare, no one made a move stick. Mikkel Frølich Honoré (EF Education-EasyPost) put in a valiant effort on the first lap but was quickly brought back, while a hard pull up the climb from Quentin Pacher (Groupama-FDJ) shed the likes of Pidcock – a surprise considering he could be counted among the favourites to win the day. His team-mate Magnus Sheffield went with him but Ganna on the other hand cruised up among the front runners, seemingly without a bother on him.
Pidcock regained the front group around the back of the circuit, only to clash with Van Aert on the approach to the climb, with the two of them coming down. With Ganna also out of contention, it was then down to Roglic to overcome concerted challenges from Carthy, Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers), Alaphilippe and Yates.