Van der Poel solo win as Pogacar keeps Tirreno lead

Dutch Mathieu van der Poel wins the third stage of the Tirreno Adriatico cycling race, from Monticiano to Gualdo Tadino, Italy, Friday, March 12, 2021. (Marco Alpozzi/LaPresse via AP)

CASTELFIDARDO, Italy — Mathieu van der Poel soloed to victory on the fifth stage of the weeklong Tirreno-Adriatico race as Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar extended his overall lead to more than a minute on Sunday.

Van der Poel attacked with more than 50 kilometres (31 miles) remaining of the 205-kilometre (127-mile) leg from Castellalto to Castelfidardo and the Dutch champion built up a lead of around three minutes on the tough finishing circuit, which had to be covered four times.

The chasing group was happy to let him go as he posed little threat to the overall standings but Pogacar made his move with 17 kilometres remaining and slashed the gap to finish just 10 seconds behind Van der Poel.

Wout van Aert was third, 49 seconds behind Van der Poel.

“I was riding completely on empty in the last few kilometres,” Van der Poel said. “I was told that Pogacar was coming close but I wasn’t even able to listen. I just wanted to reach the finish as fast as I could.”

It was a second victory in this year’s race for Van der Poel after the Alpecin-Fenix rider also won stage three on Friday.

Pogacar moved 1 minute, 15 seconds ahead of Van Aert in the overall standings. Mikel Landa is third, three minutes behind the Slovenian.

“When I saw Wout van Aert suffering I went to try and get more time on GC but I never thought I would be anywhere close to catching Van der Poel,” Pogacar said.

Monday’s sixth and penultimate stage is a 169-kilometre (105-mile) leg from Castelraimondo to Lido di Fermo.

The race ends on Tuesday with an individual time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto.

“I’m super happy with the advantage I have over Van Aert now before the time trial,” Pogacar said.

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