João Almeida and Tao Geoghegan Hart tried to hurt Primož Roglič on the steep final climb of stage 6 of Tirreno-Adriatico but he stayed with them and then won the sprint to the line for a third consecutive day to set up the overall victory and force them to accept podium places.
Roglič picked up another ten-second time bonus for his win in Osimo and that lifted him 18 seconds ahead of the Almeida. Geoghegan Hart finished second on the stage and also distanced Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) to jump up to third at 23 seconds.
Sunday’s final stage to San Benedetto del Tronto should be a day of control and a sprint finish even if Geoghegan Hart refused to consider his podium place secure.
“There’s still another day to go. I’m not going to say anything until the job is done,” the Londoner told Cyclingnews.
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Geoghegan Hart initially rode on beyond the finish area to recover and perhaps let out his frustrations after being beaten by Roglič yet again.
The Ineos rider has finished fifth, third and second on the last three days as Roglič won each uphill sprint with his mix of power, speed and cunning.
“I got caught on the barriers. It almost helped because I didn’t want to go too early like yesterday and I got a run at them but Roglič was there again,” he said with disappointment.
“The stage was a bit like a tough world championships course and so I sat on Michal Kwiatkowski’s wheel for 150km. I felt comfortable on the final climb and even backed off a little, knowing that I could close the gap before the finish. I was just beaten by Roglič again.”
Almeida finished third in the Osimo sprint after trying to crack Roglič with a long surge on the final steep climb up to the hilltop village. His performance moved him up to second overall.
“Primož Roglič just never dies, he’s the strongest rider in the peloton after Tadej Pogačar,” Almeida told Cyclingnews, with respect for his teammate.
“I’m not afraid of him or anyone and so I rode my race and got my result. I attacked and I think I did some damage to the other guys. I didn’t win the stage but it worked out pretty well for the GC.
“I’m only five seconds up on Tao Geoghegan Hart and there’s the intermediate sprint but not for five seconds. if we’re careful. we can keep second place overall.”
Almeida will again lead UAE Team Emirates at the Giro d’Italia. He wanted to show he is on track for May, with the Corsa Rosa starting in this part of Italy in just two months.
“I wanted to win it but second at Tirreno is a good result, too,” he pointed out. “I didn’t have a lucky year in 2022, with Covid during the Giro and other things, so I want to show to myself and the team that I’m back to my best and can be up there to win races.
“The Giro is the main goal but I think I’m on schedule while keeping my feet on the ground and working hard.”