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Having been the first rider through the final turn, Van Avermaet launched a long sprint and narrowly held off a fast-finishing Sagan to win stage 2 of Tirreno-Adriatico and take the overall lead

Photo: Sirotti

GREG VAN AVERMAET

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PETER SAGAN

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TIRRENO - ADRIATICO

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ZDENEK STYBAR

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13.03.2015 @ 17:12 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) confirmed that he is about to change his status as a runner-up when he took his first 2015 win in the technical uphill sprint in Arezzo on stage 2 of Tirreno-Adriatico. Having been brought into the perfect position by his BMC team, he launched a long sprint from the final turn and narrowly managed to hold off a fast-finishing Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) to take both the stage victory and the leader’s jersey.

 

For several years, Greg Van Avermaet has been known as one of the most consistent riders in the peloton but for some reason he always seemed to miss out on the win. That was apparent in last year’s classics when he was close in most of them but missed out on that elusive win that would finally elevate his status.

 

In the second part of the season, he won a couple of smaller races which seemed to signal a change in his ability to finish off his work. At the start of this season, however, he again had a number of near-misses in the Tour of Oman, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Strade Bianche.

 

However, good things may be in store for the Belgian in the classics season as he managed to open his account in today’s stage 2 of Tirreno-Adriatico. In the technical uphill sprint in Arezzo that had been won by Peter Sagan in 2014, he narrowly held off the Slovakian to take his first WorldTour win since last year’s stage victory in the Eneco Tour.

 

All had been set for another Sagan win though as Tinkoff-Saxo had worked hard all day to catch an early 5-rider breakaway. With 25km to go, they had the break in sight as Matteo Tosatto was riding strongly on the front for the Russian team.

 

Nicola Boem (Bardiani) and Chad Haga (Giant-Alpecin) attacked out of the breakaway and they managed to start the penultimate lap of the 11km finishing circuit with a small 10-second advantage. However, Tinkoff-Saxo had everything under control while Tosatto used the final but of energy and with 18km to go, the two escapees decided to sit up.

 

Nobody wanted to kick into action too early as it was important to save the firepower for the final battle for position and so Tinkoff-Saxo were allowed to continue the pace-setting with Tosatto. As they hit the small 1km climb to the finish for the penultimate time, the Italian finally blew up and it was Ivan Basso who led the peloton onto the final lap while riders started to get dropped.

 

Disaster struck for one of the outsiders Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r) who suffered a puncture and he had to work hard with teammate Damien Gaudin to rejoin the peloton. Meanwhile, the fight for position had now started and several teams were now getting organized behind the Tinkoff-Saxo riders.

 

With 7km to go, the Russian team lost control when Ian Stannard, Elia Viviani and Salvatore Puccio hit the front for Sky. However, they lacked the firepower to keep their position and were passed by Mark Renshaw (Etixx-QuickStep) before BMC started the perfect work.

 

Alessandro De Marchi hit the front with teammates Manuel Quinziato, Van Avermaet, Daniel Oss and Damiano Caruso behind him. They were briefly passed by IAM but De Marchi managed to regain control.

 

LottoNL-Jumbo were the next to try to hit the front as they moved up with Tom Leezer, Sep Vanmarcke and Paul Martens. However, they also lost the battle to BMC as Quinziato held them off.

 

Maciej Bodnar and Sagan showed impressive strength when they passed the BMC riders with 2km to go but when the Pole faded, the American team again took over. While the battle for position was on, the Italian led the peloton under the flamme rouge.

 

Luca Paolini briefly took control for Katusha but BMC still had something left in reserve. Caruso took over on the steepest part of the climb and he delivered Van Avermaet in the perfect position so that the Belgian could pass through the final turn with 150m to go as the first rider.

 

Van Avermaet launched a long sprint while Fabian Cancellara (Trek) and Zdenek Stybar both tried to pass him. They both lost ground and instead it was Sagan who came from a little bit further back. However, the Slovakian ran out of metres and had to settle for second while Stybar took third.

 

With the win Van Avermaet also took the leader’s jersey and he goes into stage 3 with a 2-second advantage over Sagan. He faces a very difficult test though as the 226km stage includes the first serious climbing. After a flat start, the riders will tackle the big Poggio San Romualdo climb at the midpoint before the descend to the tricky finale where they will go up the 4km Crisipero climb twice. It has an average gradient of 9.3% and from the top only 6.25km of descending remain.

 

A tricky finale

After yesterday’s straightforward sprint stage, the riders faced a very tricky third stage that brought them over 203km from Cascina to Arezzo. The first part was mostly flat with just two smaller climbs in the first half and the flat terrain continued until the riders reached the finishing city. Here they ended the race by doing five laps of an 11km finishing circuit that had a very technical finale. The final kilometre had several turns, included a cobbled section and had a gradient of 5%, meaning that the stage was expected to be one for the puncheurs.

 

With Matteo Pelucchi (IAM) who crashed yesterday being the only non-starter, the riders left Cascina under a beautiful sunny sky and like yesterday it didn’t require much effort to join the early break. Right from the start, Nicola Boem (Bardiani - CSF), Danilo Wyss (BMC), Carlos Quintero (Colombia), Chad Haga (Giant - Alpecin) and Rick Flens (Lotto NL - Jumbo) took off and after 3km of racing, they were already 45 seconds ahead.

 

 

A big gap

The peloton was in absolutely no hurry and so the escapees were 7.10 ahead after just 10km of racing. As the gap reached 11 minutes after 20km of racing, Francesco Manuel Bongiorno (Bardiani) made a strange move off the front but he was quickly brought back.

 

The peloton still showed no signs of a reaction and after an hour of racing, the escapees were 14 minutes ahead. This was the signal for Movistar to kick into action and 15 minutes later, they had reduced their deficit to 11.50.

 

The gap comes down

At the top of the first climb, the gap had come down to 11.06 and now Tinkoff-Saxo started to chase. Christopher Juul Jensen hit the front and his work quickly paid off. At the 65km mark, he had brough the gap down to 8.42.

 

At the bottom of the second climb, the gap was 7.06 and at this point one of the favourites, Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani), was forced to abandon. On the climb, Quintero and Wyss attacked in their battle for the mountains jersey and when the Swiss beat the Colombian in the sprint they were 25 seconds ahead of their chasers, with Flens, Haga and Boem being the order of passage.

 

Points for Boem

The gap was now down to 6.15 and the two front groups again merged. Juul Jensen continued his hard work and as they had finished the descent, he had reduced the gap to 5.34. The peloton briefly slowed down as they went through the feed zone but when the gap was back up to 6.20, Juul Jensen went back to work.

 

Boem beat Flens, Wyss and Quintero in the first intermediate sprint while they continued to lose ground. With 100km to go, the gap was 5.04 but the front group now reacted and the Juul Jensen was no longer able to make any inroads.

 

Tosatto lends a hand

The prompted Tossato to lend him a hand and as the two Tinkoff riders worked well together, the trend changed. With 65km to go, the gap was only 3.32 and it was still coming down.

 

Boem beat Wyss, Flens and Haga in the final intermediate sprint before they reached the finish line for the first time. At this point, the gap was only 2.49 and as they crossed the line after the first lap, they were only 1.56 ahead.

 

Puncture for Nibali

Tosatto and Juul Jensen were still doing all the work in the peloton and their effort paid off. After the second lap, the gap was down to just 58 seconds and it was clear that the break would not stay away.

 

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) suffered an unfortunate puncture and at one point he was 50 seconds behind. However, hard work from two of his teammates allowed im to get back to the peloton which was 45 seconds behind with 25km to go.

 

The gap was now melting away and when the break was down to just 14 seconds just before the next passage of the line, Boem attacked and only Haga could stay with him. In the end, it was all in vain though as Van Avermaet came away with the win.

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