Jonas Vingegaard puts the hammer down at Tirreno-Adriatico

"I don't think it surprised anybody ... I knew it was coming but nobody could follow," said Juan Ayuso.

“Are you not entertained?”

Dane Cash
by Dane Cash 08.03.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
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Any of the Tirreno-Adriatico GC hopefuls lulled into a false sense of security by the relative quiet on that front through the first several stages of the race experienced a rude awakening on Friday as the road angled upward.

Over the first four days of the event, Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease a Bike) bided his time as the stage hunters enjoyed their moments in the sun. Then, on Friday’s stage 5, the Dane set his team to work on the lower slopes of the hors catégorie San Giacomo climb.

The injection of pace would have alerted Vingegaard’s rivals that the time had come for the GC riders to prove themselves. Vingegaard’s teammates were telegraphing to everyone else that an all-out assault was near – but whether they knew what was about to happen didn’t matter. With 29 km still to go in the stage, the reigning Tour de France champion powered clear of the GC group. There would be no catching him after that.

As his rivals looked at each other behind him, Vingegaard surged out to a healthy gap on the climb, and then he extended on the long descent that followed. About a half an hour after his initial strike, Vingegaard cruised into Valle Castellana to secure the stage win by more than a minute.

“We always had the plan to give it a shot today,” Vingegaard said after the stage. “The team rode amazingly. The plan was perfectly executed and I’m really happy to pay the guys back. We wanted to go full gas from the bottom of the climb with Ben [Tulett] taking over from Attila [Valter] and then Steven [Kruijswijk].”

Jonas Vingegaard on stage 5 of Tirreno-Adriatico.

Indeed, Visma’s approach was reminiscent of a well-marshaled lead-out train setting up a sprinter in the finale of a flat stage, except that in this case, the rider being launched zoomed up a steep gradient for several kilometers and soloed the next 25 km to victory.

UAE’s Juan Ayuso finished second on the day 1:12 back just ahead of Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Ayuso and Hindley are also second and third on GC at 54 seconds and 1:20, respectively. After the stage, Ayuso spoke to the inevitability of Vingegaard’s attack.

“I don’t think it surprised anybody,” he admitted.

“Everybody that was on the wheel knew that it was going to happen quite fast because his teammate Ben Tulett did an amazing ride. He made the pace super high. When you tell your teammate to go like this, it’s because you want to attack. I knew it was coming but nobody could follow.”

Ayuso and the rest of the Tirreno-Adriatico peloton may have another hard day on their hands on stage 6, which concludes with another hors catégorie summit finish at Cagli. Riders will traverse more than 10 km with an average gradient nearing eight percent, and if what we saw on Friday is any indication, Visma will probably look to set another torrid pace on the ascent. All eyes will be on the rider in the race lead, although, as he has shown time and again the past two seasons, that might not stop Vingegaard from leveling the field anyway.

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