3/13/2013 - TEAM NEWS!

Sagan speeds to soggy Tirreno-Adriatico stage win

Tirreno - Adriatico 2013

 Cavendish too late, but keeps race lead

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) won stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico, beating Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) to the line in Narni Scalo.

The Cannondale leader came through in the finale of another rain-affected stage, powering to the line inside the closing 150 meters to leave his rivals trailing. Mark Cavendish, who retained his lead in the overall classification, was unable to get on terms with Sagan, despite finishing strongly.

“I’m happy. It’s the first time I’ve beaten Mark in my career, I think," Sagan said.
“There was a climb, we rode hard and I think the sprinters felt it. In the final 500m Mark had no more lead-out men. I was on Greipel’s wheel, Mark went shoulder to shoulder with me but he was sporting and dropped in behind. It was good for me, anyway, not for him.”

Cavendish was gracious in defeat, giving compliments to his Slovakian rival.

“I tried to get on Greipel’s wheel, but Sagan was already there. I started my sprint early, but someone always comes from behind so I tried to hold something back. Peter [Sagan] did really well.”

Yesterday’s stage winner Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) was forced to finish fifth with the revitalised Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) taking fourth.

Inside the final 15 kilometres Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil) launched a vicious attack. The Spaniard was chased by Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard), before Lars Boom of Blanco put in a counter attack.

Orica-GreenEdge began to mount a chase with Omega Pharma following suit as they attempted to make up for yesterday’s disappointment and perhaps licking their wounds after public criticism from sprinter Cavendish.

Boom’s move was cancelled out as the peloton began the last lap of the wet finishing circuit, and with their tails up after yesterday’s win Orica and Matt Goss set the pace. The Australian lost crucial ground when his team guided him the long way around a roundabout inside the final 3 kilometres as Matteo Rabottini (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia), a stage winner in last year’s Giro, attacked.

Once the Italian was reeled in and Goss had recovered his position Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) moved to the front to keep out of trouble. Vacansoleil's Sergey Lagutin took advantage of a lull in the action, escaping with 2.5 kilometres to go but with the sprinters’ teams in contention there was little chance of a late attack succeeding.

GreenEdge ended the Uzbeki’s chances and led the field into the final kilometre. Greipel appeared to be best placed as the sprint opened up, with Cavendish slightly hampered by his position.

How it happened

The roads were dry in Indicatore for the start of the 190km stage but the low clouds looked threatening and as soon as race director Stefano Allocchio dropped the start flag, the rain began to fall for a third consecutive stage. Only Bram Tankink (Blanco Pro Cycling Team) did not start, meaning 174 riders remained in the race.

Most of the peloton was happy to roll along covered in vests and rain coats, but Cesare Benedetti (NetApp-Endura) and Garikoitz Bravo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) jumped away at the very start to continue their personal battle for the green climber's jersey. They were joined by Francesco Failli (Fantini Vini-Selle Italia) and the peloton let them go. They quickly opened a six-minute gap as the stage headed south towards Umbria.

After 100km of racing, the gap reached nine minutes, with Omega Pharma-Quick Step setting a steady tempo on the front.

The race eventually came alive on the climb to Todi, with Benedetti accelerating from his breakaway companions to take the mountain points and the green jersey. The German-registered NetApp-Endura team did not secure a wild-card invitation to this year's Giro d'Italia but is showing it deserved its place at Tirreno-Adriatico.

The peloton rode at a steady pace on the climb and on the following hills, with the only disruption coming when Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard) appeared to have a mechanical problem and put his foot down, blocking the riders behind him. They all quickly got going again.

The breakaway faded in the Umbrian hills, with Bravo dropping back to the peloton and Benedetti and Failli riding on at a steady pace. Fortunately the roads were dry, if slightly muddy, inspiring the other teams to help the chase.

FDJ appeared on the front, riding for Arnaud Demare, Lotto Belisol was there for Andre Greipel, Argos-Shimano for John Degenkolb and Cannondale Pro Cycling for Peter Sagan. The gap fell to close to a minute with 40km to go but the peloton eased, not wanting to catch the break with close to an hour of racing still to go. The average race speed was 35km/h.

The only movement in the peloton were the retirements of Simoni Stortoni (Lampre-Merida) and Nick Nuyens (Garmin-Sharp). The Belgian has been struggling with his hip in races after his operation during the winter to treat his hip fracture.

The gap went back up to close to two minutes but began to fall again as Omega Pharma-QuickStep returned to the front with 30km to go. It was 35 seconds as the riders passed through the final intermediate sprint in Narni.

Cannondale Pro Cycling hit the front on the second part of the gradual climb through Narni and quickly closed the gap, with race radio announcing 'gruppo compatto' with 20km to go.

The men in green were keen to distance some of the poorer climbers, with Francesco Chicchi (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) one of the first to suffer.

It was a sign of what was to come in the high-speed finale of the race.

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Photo: © Roberto Bettini



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