Chris Froome took a stunning mountaintop victory on stage four at Tirreno-Adriatico as Team Sky dominated on Prati di Tivo.
"There is some great momentum behind the team at the moment with the guys doing so well at Paris-Nice. There's a great buzz and we want to try and carry that along"
The Brit was able to sit behind his team-mates on the first category climb as Dario Cataldo, Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Urán set a searing pace before handing over to Froome heading under the flamme rouge.
After the team had weathered the storm of attacks by rivals including Alberto Contador (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) Froome made no mistake as he attacked in the final kilometre, streaking clear to win in style.
Froome held off his closest rival Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini) by six seconds with Nibali coming home a further five back to round out the podium. Yet a strong performance from Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) was enough to hand the Pole a slender four-second lead over Froome.
After two separate attacks as he tried to disrupt the rhythm of Team Sky, Contador finished the day 15 seconds back on Froome, slightly distanced at the finale.
Urán was able to hold on for a fine seventh place at the end of the climb, his composed riding also bumping him up to fifth spot overall, 33 seconds back on his team-mate.
After the stage we caught up with Froome who couldn't praise his team-mates enough for an "armchair ride" to the finish.
“I’m really happy with that victory it was a really good day for us," he said. "I only ended up doing a kilometre in the wind myself. It really was an armchair ride. To have the guys there who were with me on the climb – Rigo, Sergio and Dario – to have them pulling for me when guys like Nibali and Contador are attacking is a really good feeling.
“I think everyone was hurting up at the top there. I had a little bit left to go in that last k and that was down to the work that was done by the rest of the guys during the day."
Tantalisingly close to the Maglia Azzurra Froome admitted: “It’s going to be a tough fight. Kwiatkowski is maybe a surprise leader but he’s definitely shown that he’s got the form to be up there in that leadership position. It’s going to be hard to prize that off him but we’ll take it one day at a time and do everything that we can.”
With the victory almost a mirror image of what Richie Porte achieved at Paris-Nice on Friday, Froome pointed to the team's great form as motivation.
He added: “There is some great momentum behind the team at the moment with the guys doing so well at Paris-Nice. There’s a great buzz around the team and we want to try and carry that along. There’s a really great feeling over here and morale is high. Watching the guys do the business in Paris-Nice yesterday just motivated us all the more to do what we did today.”
After making their way through the two opening road tests Team Sky wasted little time in taking it up on the climb, putting five riders on the front with Joe Dombrowski taking it up before handing over to Cataldo.
With four hours of racing in the books the peloton quickly blew apart, the 14.6-kilometre, 1450-metre ascent proving, as expected, to be a great test of form for the contenders with an average gradient of 7.1%.
With the group of elite favourites splitting in two Daniel Moreno was forced to pace Katusha team-mate Joaquim Rodriguez back to front after Spaniard had become distanced along with Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).
Not willing to sit in line, Contador attacked first with 6.2km to go, a move quickly snuffed out by Team Sky before digging again in a dig which drew out Nibali and Santambrogio. None of that fazed Froome who picked his moment and made the move stick.
Earlier four men headed off in the break with Antony Roux (FDJ), Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana), Tomasz Marczynski (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Francesco Failli (Vini Fantini) quickly building up a buffer of seven minutes.
With the lead slowly coming down over the significant ascents of the Rocca di Corno and the Passo delle Capannelle, all eyes turned to the final climb.
Team Sky put a controlling presence on the front of the peloton with Christian Knees and Salvatore Puccio keeping the deficit in check to tee up the final push.
Thankful for dry roads for the first time in the race, the contenders had to position themselves on the fast downhill run into the final test – BMC Racing leading the riders onto the climb before Team Sky quickly took it up.
Marczynski was the final rider to be caught from the break after pushing on bravely, the Pole finally dragged back by the Sky train with 8km to go and from there it was Froome who benefited from an armchair ride to the finish.
Viewers in the UK can catch two hour highlights of stage four at 2330 on Sky Sports 2 HD.