Tadej Pogacar moved top of the Tirreno-Adriatico overall standings after winning the fourth stage, a 148-km mountain trek from Terni to Prati di Tivo on Saturday.
The Slovenian attacked in the final climb, six kilometres from the finish to beat Simon Yates by six seconds and Sergio Higuita by 29.
Wout van Aert, who started the day as the overall leader, fought hard on the climb but showed his limitations in the mountains to finish ninth, 45 seconds off the pace. His gritty performance still left him second overall, 35 seconds behind Pogacar who last month won the UAE Tour.
“Today was a very hard stage. My team did a great job bringing down the gap from the breakaway and then I did my best on the climb: I am very satisfied with this win,” said Pogacar.
Having effectively won the Tour in the final time trial last September, Pogacar knows all too well that he has not won the race yet.
“Now I am in the lead, but tomorrow we have another really hard stage, and with the final ITT (individual time trial)anything can still happen,” he said.