Williams passed the finish line with a 10-second lead over 2nd-placed Norwegian Markus Hoelgaard (Uno-X) and 3rd-placed Dutchman Mick van Dijke (Jumbo-Visma), who led a group of 14 riders, reports HRT.
The best-placed Croatian cyclist was Fran Miholjević (Cycling Team Friuli) in 20th place, 4:24 minutes behind the winner. Josip Rumac (ANS Androni Giocatolli Sidermec) took 28th place, 4:31 minutes behind.
The shortest stage of this year’s CRO Race saw Austrian Hermann Pernsteiner (Bahrain Victorious) and the Spaniard Oier Lazkano (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) take the lead from the start. As a result, the two separated from the leading group and were the first to reach the mountain finish in Gračišće, and the Austrian won the maximum number of points.
This was followed by a passing goal in Pazin, where again Pernsteiner was first and Lazkano second. The two of them had a 1:45 minute advantage over Spaniard Xabier Azparren (Euskaltel Euskadi) at the time, while the peloton was 3:30 minutes behind.
One of the biggest favorites for the overall victory, Simon Yates (Team Bikeexchange), accompanied by his compatriot Stephen Williams, joined the action on the most challenging ascent of the entire race and was the first to reach the top of Učka. Yates and Williams were the first on the mountain goal in Kastav, and they picked up bonus seconds on the passing goal in Viškovo.
On the way from Viškovo to Rijeka, Yates and Williams were led by Austrian Riccardo Zoidl (Felbermayr Simplon Wels), and the trio managed to create a half-minute advantage over a group of about 15 cyclists.
In both Viškovo and Rijeka, Williams was the first at the passing goals ahead of Yates and Zoidl, and the trio used their indecision in the second group on the way from Rijeka to Opatija and increased their advantage to almost a minute.
A group of 15 managed to reduce the gap to 30 seconds at the entrance to Opatija. Since the fatigue of Yates and Zoidl was more visible in the last 10 kilometers, the difference soon dropped to 20 seconds, so in the final round, Williams decided to go for a stage victory with a solo run, in which he succeeded. Yates and Zoidl, on the other hand, were caught a kilometer before the finish.
In the final stage, Yates will still wear a green T-shirt for the best sprinter, Dutchman Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma) will keep the blue T-shirt, and his compatriot and teammate Van Dijke will wear a white T-shirt for the best young cyclist.
Ahead of the final 6th stage from Samobor to Zagreb on Sunday (157.5-kilometers), Williams has an 11-second lead over 2nd-placed Van Dijke and 12 seconds ahead of 3rd-placed Hoelgaard.
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