The Italian finished second on the race’s queen stage, just two seconds behind victor Bauke Mollema (Trek Segafredo). That was enough to elevate Rosa into a seven-second lead, capitalising on the foundations laid by Thursday’s team time trial victory.
Rosa and team-mate Pavel Sivakov found themselves in a select lead group as they crossed the line for the first time in Sogliano al Rubicone. Attacks saw the group split, and when well-placed Lawson Craddock (EF Education First-Drapac) crashed, it left the door open for Rosa to move into a slender race lead.
Despite a crash on the descent ahead of the final climb, Sivakov battled on to cross the line 14th, continuing to impress in his first race as a Team Sky rider. That result translates to the same position overall, 1:26 back on Rosa.
After the stage a happy Rosa talked us through a tough day on the bike. He told TeamSky.com: “It was really windy at the start and then a really hard circuit. All the team did a really good job because they tried to split it in the wind early on.
“With two laps to go in the downhill we had a group of 17 riders. Everyone did a really good job to set things up and then it was me and Pavel in the lead group. Then on the descent he crashed before the final climb.
“With six or seven kilometres to go we had a group of seven riders. I was trying to control things a little bit as I knew I had the jersey at that point. With around 300 metres to go Mollema started his sprint but I couldn’t pass him. But we went more for the GC than the stage today and now we are the leader.”
The GC will be decided across the weekend, with a likely sprint stage on Saturday followed by a decisive 12.5km time trial into Montegibbio.
On the stage to come Rosa added: “Tomorrow we should have a sprint stage and then we have the individual time trial on Sunday. I’m obviously not a super specialist, but we’ve been working a lot on the time trial bike this winter and I hope I can do a good performance.”