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The Slovakian proves his excellent technical skills and powerful sprint in the uphill finish in Tirreno-Adriatico to easily beat Kwiatkowski and Clarke; Kwiatkowski takes over the lead from teammate Cavendish

Photo: Sirotti

MICHAL KWIATKOWSKI

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PETER SAGAN

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QUICK-STEP - ALPHA VINYL

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SIMON CLARKE

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TIRRENO - ADRIATICO

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14.03.2014 @ 17:34 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) got his revenge against Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) who had beaten him into second in the Strade Bianche, when the Slovakian emerged as the strongest in the tricky third stage of Tirreno-Adriatico. In the very technical, uphill finale, the Slovakian positioned himself perfectly on Philippe Gilbert's wheel before launching his powerful sprint to take an easy win while Kwiatkowski took second to take over the overall lead from teammate Mark Cavendish.

 

One week ago, Peter Sagan was firmly beaten b a very strong Michal Kwiatkowski in the Strade Bianche one day race but today the Slovakian proved that he still knows how to beat his rival from his junior career. In a technical, uphill sprint tailor-made for him, Sagan powered clear to take what seemed to be an easy win.

 

With a technical finish and a final kilometre that had an average gradient of 5%, the stage had been an open affair that appealed to both sprinters and puncheurs, meaning that several riders fancied their chances to come away with the win. However, it was mostly left to Omega Pharma-Quick Step to catch the early breakaway.

 

In the finale, it was all back together and it was now clear that Omega Pharma-Quick Step had no plans to defend Mark Cavendish's overall lead. The Brit was nowhere to be seen as his team was preparing the sprint for Kwiatkowski.

 

As opposed to this, André Greipel planned to give it a go and it was his famous train that took control in the final when Adam Hansen hit the front. They battled for position with OPQS as Matteo Trentin pushed the Australian away from the front.

 

BMC had red-circled this stage for Philippe Gilbert and it was the American team that upped the pace when the road started to point upwards one kilometre from the finish. Marcel Sieberg tried to launch the Lotto train but as head launched his teammates, it was instead world champion Tony Martin who strung things out in the narrow streets with its many technical corners.

 

The peloton splintered behind the time trial world champion while all the puncheurs prepared themselves to strike. The first to take off was Gilbert but Sagan had proved his technical skills to move onto his wheel through a difficult corner.

 

From there, the outcome was never in doubt as the Slovakian opened his sprint and took what seemed to be an easy win. Kwiatkowski who had lost a few positions in the final corner, did a good sprint to come from behind to narrowly edge out Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Gilbert in the battle for 2nd behind the superior Sagan.

 

As the peloton had split in the finale and only 8 riders were given the same time as Sagan, Kwiatkowski took over the lead from his teammate Cavendish. With bonus seconds also added, he not leads teammate Rigoberto Uran by 10 seconds.

 

Kwiatkowsi faces a stern test in tomorrow's mammoth 244km queen stage of the race. An easy start gives way for a very tough finale with three big climbs. The stage ends with a 14km climb to the finish and we will see the first big showdown between the climbers in this year's edition of the Italian race.

 

A tricky affair

The 210km second stage from Cascina to Arezzo was an unpredictable affair as it had a tricky finale. It was mostly flat with only two smaller climbs in the first part but the race ended with three laps of an 11km finishing circuit that had the potential to do some damage. While mostly flat, it ended with a very technical final kilometre that had as average gradient of 5%.

 

The stage took off without Jurgen Van Den Broeck and Jacopo Guarnieri who had both been involed in a crash yesterday. Few believed that the stage would not be firmly controlled by the teams of the sprinters and so there was no fight to get into the early break.

 

The break is formed

Nicola Boem, Marco Canola (both Bardiani), Jay Robert Thomsen (MTN-Qhubeka), Cesare Benedetti (NetApp-Endura), and Bjorn Thurau (Europcar) attacked from the fun and after 5.5km,, they were already 1.50 ahead. At the 15km mark, the difference was 3 minutes but Omega Pharma-Quick Step had no intentions of letting things get out of control and they started to stabilize the gap.

 

After 30km, it was 3.20 but was allowed to grow to 4.30 where it was kept stable for some time. Meanwhile, Canola took maximum points on the first climb ahead of Benedetti, Boem and Thurau to extend his lead in the mountains classification.

 

Canola sits up

Canola was surprisingly beaten on the second climb where Benedetti was first ahead of Boem and Thomson. At that point, Omega Pharma-Quick Step had stepped a bit off the gas allowing the gap to reach 5.30.

 

Canola had scored enough points for the mountains classification and decided to fall back to the peloton while the gap continued to grow. With 85km to go, it reached 6.30 but was now kept stable at around that mark for several kilometres.

 

Lampre-Merida join the chase

With 60km to go, the gap was still 6.04 as OPQS had now got assistance from Lampre-Merida. Alessandro Petacchi and Davide Cimolai swapped turns on the front as they now decided that it was time to up the pace.

 

With 45km to go, the gap had come down to 4.06 and it seemed that the peloton had everything under control as Petacchi and Cimolai continued their impressive work. A crash brought down Roy Curvers (Giant-Shimano) but he was quickly back on his bike.

 

Thurau takes off

With 33km to go, the riders hit the technical finale to start the first of their final laps and Thurau decided that it was time to take off on his own. He quickly got a big gap while all the work was now again left to OPQS who led the peloton across the line 2.28 later.

 

The chasers refused to give up but they kept losing time to the lone leader. When the gap to the peloton was 2.10, he was 40 seconds ahead of the peloton.

 

Cannondale come forward

After the first lap on the circuit, Cannondale briefly took control to signal Sagan's intentions. Thurau was now 1.20 ahead of the peloton which swallowed up the group of chasers.

 

On the second lap, the battle for position really commenced and many teams tried to move up but the work was still mainly left to OPQS. Thurau did a good job to keep his gap but it gradually came down.

 

Tinkoff-Saxo hit the front

At the start of the final lap, Thurau was still 30 seconds ahead as Lotto Belisol had now joined OPQS on the front. However, it was only a brief contribution and it was again left to Wout Poels to set the pace.

 

As it had been the case yesterday, Tinkoff-Saxo decided to turn on the screws to keep Alberto Contador safe and with 8km to go, Manuele Boaro and Sergio Paulinho hit the front. Their fast pace brought Thurau back with 6km to go.

 

Puncture for Santaromita

All the sprint teams were now battling for position behind the Tinkoff-Saxo team as Michael Mørkøv and Matteo Tosatto were the next to set the pace With 4.3km to go, disaster struck for Ivan Santaromita (Orica-GreenEDGE) who saw his GC hopes being dashed by an untimely puncture.

 

With 3km to go, Lotto Belisol took control with Adam Hansen and from there it was a fierce battle for position all the way to the line. BMC and OPQS both had stints on the front until it was Martin that strung things out in the end.

 

His fast pace was enough to make the peloton splinter but he could help his teammate Kwiatkowski hold off Sagan who took an easy win.

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