Nibali Takes Tirreno-Adriatico Stage Five, Horner Keeps Blue

March 11, 2012 Updated: March 11, 2012

Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas-Canondale showed the climbing legs he lacked yesterday, dropping his contenders on the uphill finish of Stage Five of Tirreno-Adriatico to take the win by 15 seconds—enough to elevate him to third from eighth in General Classification.

RadioShack’s Chris Horner kept the Maglia Azzura with his third-place finish, behind Astana’s Roman Kreuziger.

Stage Five featured a pair of long climbs at the end—35 kilo9meters of climbing with a short, fast descent in between. Everyone expected attacks on the final climb, and attacks came, though only Nibali among the GC contenders made a move.

A three-rider break—Jens Debusschere (Lotto), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), and Kristof Goddaert (Ag2R)—burned out early on the final climb, leaving the day to the big names.

First to attack, with 8.1 km to go, was Katusha’s Joaquin Rodriguez. 500 meters later he was caught and passed by Astana’s Paolo Tiralongo.

Movistar’s José Herreda set off after the leading pair, with Katusha’s Vladimir Gusev and Colnago’s Gianluca Brambilla following after. Half a kilometer later Ag2R’s Rinaldo Nocentini took off after them.

Nocentini was only 36 seconds down in GC, so his move caught the attention of the leaders. The Ag2R rider soon passed Gusev and Brambilla, who fell back.

Entering the final five kilometers, Tiralongo led Nocentini, with eight riders chasing, including Vincenzo Nibali, Roman Kreuziger, Chris Horner, Lampre’s Michele Scarponi, Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s Peter Velits, Colnago’s Domenico Pozzovivo, Vacansoleil’s Wouter Poels, Ag2R’s Christophe Riblon. This lead group caught Tiralongo after 1000 meters, but the Astana rider immediately re-attacked.

At 3.8 km, seeing no action among the leaders, Vincenzo Nibali made his move, and immediately opened a good gap, up to 26 seconds at one point. Meanwhile Vacansoleil’s Johnny Hoogerland bridged across to the lead group.

2000 meters from the finish, Nibali led by 21 seconds, with Tiralongo, Kreuziger, and Horner leading the chase. Hoogerland and Riblon attacked at 1.7 km to go, while Nibali’s lead grew to 26 seconds. With the Liquigas rider 34 seconds down in GC, with time bonuses the Italian was close to taking the blue leader’s jersey.

1500 meters out, Wouter Poels launched an attack. Chris Horner apparently decided fourth was not an acceptable finish; he picked up his pace, with Kreuziger following.

Horner pushed on, fading just before the line to let Roma Kreuziger pass him for second; neither had a chance to catch Vincenzo Nibali, who has the best legs in the bunch on this day.

Stage Six is a lumpy 84 km loop around the city of Offida, with six 16.2 km laps within the city to finish. There is no major climb from which to launch an attack; the day will likely end with a bunch sprint or a small escape making good. Barring crashes and mechanicals, there will be no change in GC, and Tirreno-Adriatico will come down to the Stage Seven time trial Tuesday.