March 11, 2012 Vincenzo Nibali escaped to victory on Sunday’s fifth stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico over 195km from Martinsicuro to Prati di Tivo.
Nibali surged clear of his rivals on the mountain-top finish with Roman Kreuziger and Chris Horner coming in 16 seconds down. American Horner did just enough to hold onto the leader’s blue jersey, maintaining a five-second lead over Czech Kreuziger. But Nibali’s victory, plus the bonus seconds on offer at the finish line, moved him up to third overall, just 12 seconds back.
The top riders marked each other on the final climb up to Prati di Tivo until Nibali broke for home with 4km remaining, securing the victory that had eluded him the day before when out-sprinted by Liquigas team-mate Peter Sagan.
The day’s break was made by Jens Debusschere, Egoi Martinez and Kristoff Goddaert and at one stage they had more than 10-minutes on the field. The gap quickly dropped on the final brutal climb and with 10km to go it was down to a 25-man lead peloton.
Joaquim Rodriguez was the first to try his luck from there followed by Paolo Tiralongo. When Nibali attacked he soon streaked past Tirlongo, who fell back into the Horner-led chase group. Nibali had a 26-second gap at one stage but Horner worked hard to limit his losses on the day and keep the leader’s jersey.
It feels good to be back racing, said Chris Horner after the stage. Today was a difficult stage with so many tactics going on. I think three of us really had good legs: me, Nibali and Kreuziger. In the final kilometers when Nibali went, I had to decide which card to play since there were so many bonus seconds available on the line. If I chased Nibali too hard but faded at the end, Kreuziger would have gained more seconds than just the bonus seconds, so I decided to give away something to Nibali to better protect the jersey.
Last year’s winner and Tour de France champion Cadel Evans of Australia finished more than 10 minutes down and dropped out of overall contention.