Tadej Pogacar has won the week-long Tirreno-Adriatico race by a comfortable margin ahead of a stellar field in Italy.
The victory continues a strong start to the season for the Slovenian as he prepares to defend his Tour de France title.
“What a fantastic start to the season,” Pogacar said on Tuesday.
“This is one of the biggest one-week races.”
After placing fourth in the concluding time trial, Pogacar finished 1 minute and 3 seconds ahead of Wout van Aert in the overall standings of the sea-to-sea race.
Mikel Landa finished third overall, 3:57 behind. Egan Bernal, the 2019 Tour winner, finished fourth, more than 4 minutes behind Pogacar.
The 22-year-old Pogacar won one stage in both the UAE Tour and the Tirreno, having taken Saturday’s leg that finished with a gruelling climb to Prati di Tivo.
Pogacar also gained time against all of his overall rivals in Sunday’s fifth stage, which featured a circuit over a series of short climbs, when he nearly caught breakaway rider Mathieu van der Poel.
“Stage 5 in the cold, wet weather. That’s the stage I will never forget,” said Pogacar, who rides for UAE Team Emirates.
Van Aert, who rides for the Jumbo-Visma team, won the time trial for his second stage win of the race on the flat route on the Adriatic coast.
European champion Stefan Kung finished second, six seconds behind, and world champion Filippo Ganna was third, 11 seconds behind, ending his winning streak in time trials at eight.
“I’m improving in this discipline every year a little bit,” van Aert said.
“I only got beaten by the Tour de France winner. I’ll try more of this in the future but for now I have the classics in my mind, starting with Milano-San Remo.”
Up next on the World Tour calendar is the Milan-San Remo classic on Saturday, although Pogacar is not entering that race.
He’ll next compete in the Tour of the Basque Country in April, followed by the Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege single-day races.
“But first I want to rest a little bit,” he said.
The multi-talented van Aert also won the opening stage in a sprint. He’ll be looking to defend his Milan-San Remo title.
“I felt really good this week and I saw last year that I really improved my form afterward,” the Belgian rider said.
“Now I’ve got to recover as good as possible.”