Simon Clarke proved to be a man of his word on stage 5 of Tirreno – Adriatico, signalling his intention to make the breakaway before the stage and backing it up by launching the first attack of the day.

Clarke’s move triggered a flurry of counter attacks to eventually form a strong 10-rider breakaway but knowing the strength of the riders up the road, the peloton rode hard to control the move and never let their advantage go beyond two and a half minutes.

We have had four pretty clear sprint days where we had clear objectives to support our quick guys so, with tomorrow being a definite GC day and Sunday being another sprint, today was the breakaway day for me,” said Clarke. “I knew it wouldn’t be easy but thought why not give it a shot. It was a really nice breakaway, super high quality riders in there, but unfortunately Visma had other ideas. I didn’t expect them to control like they did. In the last few days all the GC teams have been trying to call each other’s bluff so I thought that might happen again today. But I was wrong.”

The breakaway was reeled at the foot of the San Giacomo climb, and soon after stage winner and new race leader Jonas Vingegaard launched the decisive attack. Behind, Krists Neilands dug deep in the chase group to test his legs amongst the General Classification contenders.

Neilands showed his form on the first GC day of the race and was fighting for a top-ten result on the stage however, a regrouping of two chase groups in the final kilometers saw him cross the line in 17th place, just under three minutes down on Vingegaard.

I was up there going for what was probably the top-ten on the stage but a group came back with around three kilometers to go,” explained Neilands. “But in general, I am grateful that the team gave me a free card to try and go for GC and I can say I am quite happy with the result because I had no idea how I would feel. A big thank you to my teammates who helped me today. It was good to see that the legs are there. Today was a super hard day, tomorrow is a super big day, and we will try to survive again.

Ahead of the final weekend of racing, Neilands now sits in 15th place on the General Classification.