Sagan Wins Stage Four, Horner Takes Blue in Tirreno-Adriatico Stage Four

March 10, 2012 Updated: March 10, 2012

Peter Sagan of Liquigas passed team leader Vincenzo Nibali and a few of cycling’s fastest climbers on the heartbreakingly steep uphill finish of Stage Four of Tirreno-Adriatico. Sagan finished fourth in the General Classification; RadioShack-Nissan’s Chris Horner, making a surprising comeback after eight months recovering from a bad crash in the Tour de France, moved into the race lead with his fifth-place finish.

“Today we gave so much as a team and it was important to win,” Sagan told cyclingnews.com. “The best option for the team’s victory today was [Vincenzo] Nibali and I tried to encourage it until the last [moment]. I pushed on the final climb, then I slowed down for him. When Di Luca attacked I closed the gap, then I thought Vincent was able to deal with our opponents.

“On the final straight I heard they were catching up and at that moment I thought only of the good of the team: not winning would be a great sin. I’m sorry for Vincent, we are a united group and among us there are absolutely no problems. Tomorrow we will have a hard stage and I’ll be at his disposal to help him.”

“Needless to say that today I wanted success, to try to gain precious seconds on the general classification,” said Nibali. “The final was very animated and we, as a team, had a double opportunity: I had to win or Peter to reward the good work of our teammates. When he (Sagan) passed me I did not expect it, of course, but I also believe Peter’s words and that it was in good faith.”

Stage Four was the longest stage of Tirreno-Adriatico at 252 km; the riders spent seven-and-a-half hours in the saddle before reaching the final killer climb where the day was decided. The day was hard, but not as hard as planned; the very long, steep Passo Lanciano (12.3 km at 8.4 percent with ramps up to 13 percent) was replaced due to snow and ice on the road.

The replacement climb up Valico della Forcella, with an average grade of 3.8 percent, gave the riders a chance to rest (relatively) to prepare for the extremely steep finish.

Seven riders attacked at the 8-kilometer mark: Stefano Pirazzi and Angelo Pagani of Colnago, Saxo Bank’s Manuele Boaro, Euskatel Euskadie’s Pablo Urtasun, Farnese Vini’s Kevin Hulsmans, Ag2R’s Lloyd Mondory, and Katusha’s Pavel Brutt. This group stayed away until the 30-km mark, when Brutt and Mondory attacked.

Urasun, Boaro, and Pirazzi caught the leading pair, so Brutt attacked again. Boaro and Pirazzi tried again to catch him, Rabobank’s Maarten Tjillingii tried to catch Boaro; the peloton caught them all 12 km from the finish line, and everyone steeled themselves for the final climb.

Liquigas led the peloton, setting a very high pace top discourage further attacks. The pace didn’t discourage Astana’s Dmitriy Muravyev, who attacked as Brutt was caught. Euskatel’s Mikel Landa chased, caught, and passed Muravyev; Landa was caught at the 6.4 km mark.

BMC sent a trio of riders to the front led by Allessandro Ballan; he and George Hincapie led Cadel Evans onto the slopes of the final, brutal ascent.

The three BMC riders led Aqua & Sapone’s Danilo Di Luca and Radio Shack’s Fabian Cancellara but Liquigas wasn’t going to let them lead. Peter Sagan launched an attack, with Lampre’s Michele Scarponi and Astana’s Roman Kreuziger following. Chris Horner and Cadel Evans brought up the back of this group. 

When the slope hit the 19 percent section, Vacansoleil’s Johnny Hoogerland attacked, but no one cared. Cadel Evans grinded his way to the front with Di Luca, Horner and Scarponi behind. Evans faded, and Di Luca, Horner and Scarponi led the climb.

With 1.1 km to go Sagan attacked again; with a kilometer left Roman Kreuziger passed Sagan and shot ahead with Chris Horner chasing.

As the grade eased, Liquigas launched its final attack, with Vincenzo Nibali and Peter Sagan surged ahead. Sagan was stronger into the last few hundred meters and Roman Kreuziger snuck past Nibali just before the line.

RadioShack’s Chris Horner captured the Maglia Azzura with his fifth-place finish, with Kreuziger second and GreenEdge’s Caneron Meyer, wearing the Best Young Rider jersey, coming third. Peter Sagan and Danilo Di Luca rounded out the top five.

‘The Whole Last Part Was All Very Difficult’

“The whole last part was all very difficult,” said new race leader Chris Horner on the RadioShack-Nissan-Trek website. “Cadel Evans was the first to go when we came across the flat section where it crosses the street with the roundabout. I went with him. Then Danilo Di Luca went with an incredible explosion.

“Luckily Peter Sagan dropped his chain. After he fixed his chain, he got back up and did the next attack, Di Luca followed and then me. I thought that would be the final move.”

It was not. “Roman Kreuziger came along and threw an attack in on the three of us and I had to bridge that.  He was the biggest threat to us on GC so I had to respond in order to take the jersey.

“In the final to the line I accidentally shifted from the big chain ring to the small one and my hands were cramping up so I couldn’t get it back up to do the sprint, leaving me to just spin the cranks at 130 rpms to the finish, all the while losing ground.”  Horner laughed and added, “Even if I could’ve shifted back I wouldn’t have won the sprint, but maybe I would have been up a little further.”

The 40-year-old rider was confidant from the first kilometer.

“Before the race today I thought for sure I might have the leader’s jersey at the end of the day,” said Horner told the website. “Fabian Cancellara and all the big riders on my team did a fantastic job—they protected me from the wind and brought me to the front at the bottom of the climb. Cancellara got me in position and then I knew to follow the moves from the best riders on the day.

“All the team was very important to me today. They’ve worked very hard for me in the past few days and this stage was a goal for us. My legs are feeling very good, so certainly I have a shot at winning the overall.”

Horner holds the lead by a scant seven seconds over Roman Kreuziger, 13 over Cameron Meyer, and 21 seconds over Peter Sagan. If he cannot solidify his lead in Stage Five, the race might come down to the final time trial on Tuesday.

Stage Five, 196 km Martinsicuro to Prati di Tivo, will offer another mountaintop finish, with nonstop hills, and three categorized climbs along the way.  The final climb will probably be the site of all the GC action: 14.5 km long at seven percent, with some 12 percent ramps in the first portion and 22 switchbacks.

Following on the heels of the 20-km climb to Piano Roseto, this should prove tough enough to make a selection and set up a fight for the Maglia Azzura.

Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 4 Results

1

Peter Sagan

Liquigas-Cannondale

7:24:50

2

Roman Kreuziger

Astana

0

3

Vincenzo Nibali

Liquigas-Cannondale

0

4

Danilo Di Luca

Acqua & Sapone

0

5

Christopher Horner

Radioshack-Nissan

0

6

Hoogerland Johnny

Vacansoleil-DCM

+ 0:08

General Classification after Stage 4

1

Christopher Horner

Radioshack-Nissan

19:01:54

2

Roman Kreuziger

Astana

+ 0:07

3

Cameron Meyer

Greenedge

+ 0:13

4

Peter Sagan

Liquigas-Cannondale

+ 0:21

5

Danilo Di Luca

Acqua & Sapone

+ 0:22

6

Fabian Cancellara

Radioshack-Nissan

+ 0:30