After van Aert and Alaphilippe, the third rider telling the tale of the 2021 Tirreno-Adriatico had to be Mathieu van der Poel because he won two stages there and, most importantly, because of how he won them.
In stage 3, he stepped up the pace when the finish was still 98 km away, taking advantage of the echelons, while keeping enough focus and control to beat van Aert to the line.
In stage 5, he took full flight when the race hit the forbidding ramps of the circuit of Castelfidardo.
He attacked once, twice, three times – each time whittling down the lead group. Eventually, he blasted away under the rain, with 52 km to go. Doing so in contemporary cycling is pure madness.
As he pushed on towards the finish – cold, tired, and possibly hungry – he skilfully managed to hold off Pogačar’s counter-attack, ultimately sealing stage victory, and creating a memorable performance which went down in the history of Tirreno-Adriatico.