Every second might not count for Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) on the final stage of Tirreno-Adriatico given his sizeable overall lead, but every time trial counts for the Slovenian between here and the Tour de France, which will feature two stages against the watch.
Pogačar carries a buffer of 1:15 over Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) into Tuesday’s concluding leg, a 10.1km time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto, but he acknowledged that the short stage would provide a useful test in the discipline with later objectives in mind.
“I will race by my feeling and I hope I will do a good time trial because it’s quite important when it comes to time trials in almost every race this year,” Pogačar said after stage 6 in Lido di Fermo. “There are also two in the Tour so it will be good training for the next races.”
Pogačar already produced a remarkable time trial to divest his fellow countryman Primož Roglič of yellow at last year’s Tour de France and he also enjoyed a solid outing in his first time trial of 2021 at the UAE Tour. Fourth place in that short, fast test helped to tee up his final overall victory, though he downplayed his chances of claiming stage victory on Tuesday.
World champion Filippo Ganna (Ineos) has won his last eight time trials and he will roll down the start ramp in San Benedetto del Tronto as the overwhelming favourite, while Van Aert – silver medallist at the Imola Worlds – will also be in contention for the stage win, even if recouping his gap on Pogacar seems improbable.
“I don’t know, we will see. Here there are a lot of good time trialists. It’s a different course to the UAE, there are a lot of speed bumps and bad roads. Here you need to be a little more focused on the road,” said Pogačar, who is on the cusp of his second stage race victory of the new season. “Tomorrow the important thing is to remain in the leader’s jersey.”
Pogačar confirmed that he will not line out at Milan-San Remo, where he placed 12th on his debut last August. “I’ve raced a lot this year,” he said, adding that his next competitive outings will come at the Itzulia Basque Country (April 5-10) and the Ardennes Classics.
The 22-year-old took possession of the blue jersey at Tirreno-Adriatico after winning atop Prati di Tivo on Saturday and he cemented his advantage with a remarkable solo effort in the rain at Castelfidardo 24 hours later. Although he fell just short of catching Mathieu van der Poel on the line, he opened up striking gaps in the overall standings.
Tirreno-Adriatico is usually a tight race, often decided by seconds, but Van Aert is the only rider within three minutes of Pogacar on general classification. Despite the depth of stage racing talent on show in Italy this week, almost seven minutes separate the top 10 riders overall after Pogačar’s exhibitions over the weekend.
And, despite the hardships of Saturday and Sunday, stage 6 from Castelraimondo to Lido di Fermo was also run off at a strikingly high speed. Stage winner Mads Würtz Schmidt (Israel Start-Up Nation) and the breakaway averaged some 45.6kph, with the peloton coming home a minute or so behind them.
“I don’t know,” Pogačar said when asked to explain the high speed. “We started fast, we finished fast. The breakaway was super strong. We couldn’t catch them so that makes for fast racing.”