Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) has won the fifth stage of the 2013 Tirreno-Adriatico.
The Spaniard attacked on the final climb of the day, with one kilometre remaining, to claim victory on the 230km stage from Ortona to Chieti.
Bauke Mollema (Blanco) was second, while Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) finished third.
Chris Froome (Team Sky) finished sixth on the stage, but moved into the overall lead of the race, with a 20-second advantage over Contador, who is second, and Vincenzo Niabli (Astana) who lies third overall.
Speaking afterwards, Froome said: “Oh man, that was tough. That was grueling. That was really hard.
“We’re not looking at the stage, we’re looking at the GC. Our goal today was to dislodge the leader.”
The British team accomplished their mission. Froome’s predecessor in the maglia azzurra, Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) rode strongly for much of the stage, but faded in the closing kilometres when the speeds and gradients rose to brutal proportions.
Froome took the fight to Contador and Nibali at the intermediate sprint section with 5km to go after another day of total dominance from Team Sky on the run in to the finish at Chieti.
The British team began an encore of their performance in yesterday’s fourth stage with 52km remaining, when Joe Dombrowski hit the front of the peloton in pursuit of a six-strong breakaway containing 2004 Giro d’Italia winner, Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida).
Two kilometres later, Cunego launched an attack from the breakaway that would extend his lead over the peloton to more than three minutes and last until just 7.5km from the finish.
Once spent, Dombrowski was replaced by Team Sky at the front of the bunch by Dario Cataldo, who held his position for the entirety of a 28km descent.
All the contenders were present when Cunego was caught, prompting Cannondale to mass towards the front of the peloton. Peter Sagan and Moreno Moser shared an animated discussion, perhaps discussing methods to reprise Moser’s victory last week at Strade Bianche.
Despite the brief flurry of activity among the men in green, the men in black remained at the head of the peloton, and when the road rose at Chieti-Pietragrossa with six kilometres to go, Sagan went backwards while Team Sky drove relentlessly onwards.
One kilometre later, a stage that had already offered more than its fair share of excitement exploded at the intermediate sprint bonus. The three men with their eyes on the main prize – Froome, Contador, and Nibali – went wheel to wheel, with Contador taking the sprint, and precious bonus seconds, ahead of Nibali and Froome.
Froome’s acceleration briefly cost him his team-mates, the seemingly indefatigable Columbian duo of Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao, and while they regrouped, Roman Kreuziger (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) went up the road, where he was joined moments later by Andrey Amador (Movistar), who last year won stage 14 of the Giro d’Italia.
Any gains made by the pair’s superb descending into Chieti was quickly cancelled out by the next incline, when the chasing group of contenders, still led by Uran and Henao, with Froome third wheel, swallowed them up just 1.8km from the finish.
Froome placed a hand on Uran’s back as the final kilometre approached, and the Olympic silver medalist responded with renewed exertion, but when the road reached a near vertical incline a few hundred metres later, no one could match the acceleration of Rodriguez.
The Spaniard sprinted away while Froome, still seated, drove the bunch in pursuit, with Contador dancing on his wheel. ‘Purito’ allowed himself one look back during a moment of respite on a section of flat road before the final wall, one that peaked at 19 per cent, presented itself and he attacked again.
Froome, Contador, and Mollema took up the chase, but Rodriguez would have known then that the stage was in the bag. He had suffered yesterday on the ascent of the Prati di Tivo, rolling in 43 seconds after Froome, but today he would not be denied.
Froome’s ascendency to the maglia azzurra completed another day of total dominance for Team Sky. They will attempt to do it all again tomorrow on a rolling 209km stage that starts and finishes in Porto Sant’Elpidio.
Tirreno-Adriatico 2013 – stage five – result
1) Joaquim Rodriguez (SPA) – Katusha – 6.06.43
2) Bauke Mollema (NED) – Blanco Pro Cycling +8”
3) Alberto Contador (SPA) – Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank
4) Mauro Santambrogio (ITA) – Vini Fantini-Selle Italia
5) Chris Horner (USA) – RadioShack-Leopard
6) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky
7) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana +17”
8) Przemyslaw Niemiec (POL) – Lampre-Merida +22”
9) Roman Kreuziger (CZE) – Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank
10) Daniel Martin (IRL) – Garmin-Sharp +28”
1) Christopher Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – 22.11.53
2) Alberto Contador (SPA) – Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank +20”
3) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana
4) Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep +24”
5) Chris Horner (USA) – RadioShack-Leopard +37”
6) Mauro Santambrogio (ITA) – Vini Fantini-Selle Italia +52”
7) Joaquim Rodriguez (SPA) – Katusha +55”
8) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Team Sky +57”
9) Roman Kreuziger (CZE) – Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank +1.27
10) Sergio Henao (COL) – Team Sky +1.51