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Game, set, match


He was in no mood for gifts. Primoz Roglic has claimed the Walls Stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico as well, securing his victory in the 2023 edition of the “Corsa dei Due Mari”. After yesterday’s headwind, fans were curious to see the big names face each other without any nasty environmental factors and to understand the real values on the field. The outcome, however, did not change a bit: the captain of Jumbo-Visma had more fuel and better timing than everyone else and the hat-trick was served, the first since Oscar Freire in 2005.

Let’s be honest, today that was by no means a foregone conclusion: a stage like this, without a metre of flat and featuring countless walls, would have made it anything but easy to keep things under control and make sure no one could sneak away. All the more so after Wilco Kelderman’s crash, which deprived Roglic of his most valuable ally on the climbs. Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-hansgrohe) was the one who tried with the most conviction, attempting to get away before the steep final walls of Costa del Borgo and Via Olimpia. The Russian had a delay of 21 seconds in the general classification and Roglic, with Van Aert slightly fatigued after shattering the peloton on the previous lap, struggled  to organise a proper chase. Fortunately for him, Ineos Grenadiers and UAE Emirates had the same goal as him, and with around 6 km to go they managed to close in on Vlasov.

At that point, however, hell did break loose: the first to give it a shot was Joao Almeida (UAE Emirates), followed by Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) – and when the Basque goes for it, you know, the adrenaline hits the roof. But as minutes and metres went by, it became all the more evident that Roglic could not be dropped. With two pedal strokes the Slovenian closed the gap on his rivals. Eight riders remained after the Costa del Borgo wall, those who would then fight for victory on the way up to Osimo. Michael Woods actually tried to anticipate and outsmart everyone, but the Maglia Bianca Joao Almeida held a much different opinion.

On the very last climb, Hugh Carthy decided to attack: no way; then Enric Mas: no way; then Tao Geoghegan Hart: no way. As in Tortoreto and Sarnano Sassotetto, all Roglic needed was the last 100 metres. One, two, three! Game, set, match! Tirreno-Adriatico pretty much over?

One would tend to say yes, but never say never in cycling! Roglic knows better than anyone else what kind of mess can occur on the last day of a stage race: in 2021 he lost the Paris-Nice after dominating the whole competition and winning three stages. He fell several kilometres from the finish and his rivals, already launched, did not wait for him, pulling straight to the finish. He lost several minutes, Maximilian Schachmann won the race and Primoz finished 15th in the GC. Better knock on wood.

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