Three days ago, the outcome of Tirreno - Adriatico was all but decided. Christopher Froome (Sky) would win the general classification thanks to his strong showing and stage win atop Prati di Tivo on Stage 4. Two days ago Froome's win was nearly confirmed as he avoided losing any major time on rivals on the steep kick to the finish in Chieti. But yesterday, the race was turned on its head as Vincenzo Nibali teamed up with Joaquim Rodriguez and Peter Sagan to put 50 seconds into Froome and take over the general classification lead by 34 seconds.
Thirty-four seconds seemed too much to make up in a mere 9.3km time trial, an effort just over ten minutes in duration, but yesterday's stage threw the race into an air of uncertainty. Beyond the top honors, the battle for the the final podium spot was tight with Rodriguez currently in third but with scant advantages of only 11 and 21 seconds over Alberto Contador and Michal Kwiatkowski, both of whom are far better time trial riders than the diminutive Spaniard. Would Nibali have another stellar day, or would Froome rebound and use his more powerful time trial to steal back the race lead? And with Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara both starting, which of the multiple time world champions in the discipline would prevail over the other?
Cancellara was the first of the specialists and general classification riders to start and set a then fastest time of 10:37. However, he was soon to be usurped from the hot seat by Adriano Malori, the budding time trial specialist and former Italian national champion. Before too long, another surprise came in the form of Andrey Amador, the young Costa Rican rider on Movistar who has little to show in the time trial records department, who slotted between Malori's and Cancellara's times. This was all in vain once the defending world champion hit the start ramp. After posting a slower time at the intermediate time check, Martin continued to up his tempo to win the stage over Malori by 6 seconds.
After fighting for the stage honors was mostly concluded - for only Froome, and perhaps the Contador who used to win time trials, could hope to podium on the pancake flat course - the general classification battle heated up. Froome put in the performance expected of him, finishing 6th on the stage, but the course played into Nibali's relative time trial strengths in moderate distances and the Astana rider finished only 11 seconds in arrears of Froome, more than enough to take the win and defend his 2012 title. Behind the two, Rodriguez floundered as was expected, but a surprise came in the form of Alberto Contador whose 15th place finish was uncharacteristically poor and almost cost him a spot on the podium. Thanks to a stellar time trial, Kwiatkowski moved into fourth, a mere second behind Contador.
After a week of thrilling racing, many of the racers in Italy for Tirreno - Adriatico will stay put, taking the chance to recover a little before the first monument of the season, Milan - San Remo, which is held next Sunday.
- Tony Martin, Omega Pharma - Quickstep 10'25"
- Adriano Malori, Lampre - Merida, at 6"
- Andrey Amador Bakkazakova, Movistar, at 10"
- Fabian Cancellara, RadioShack - Leopard, at 12"
- Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas, Movistar, at 14"
- Vincenzo Nibali, Astana Pro Team
- Christopher Froome, Sky Procycling, at 23"
- Alberto Contador Velasco, Team Saxo - Tinkoff, at 52"
- Michal Kwiatkowski, Omega Pharma - Quickstep, at 53"
- Joaquim Rodriguez, Katusha, at 54"