INDICATORE, Italy (AFP) — World road champion Mark Cavendish (Sky) took his fourth victory of the season Thursday, winning the second stage of Tirreno-Adriatico ahead of Oscar Freire (Katusha) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda).
A field sprint was a near-guarantee over the flat 230km route from San Vincenzo to Indicatore, as Sky drove the pace for Cavendish, GreenEdge for race leader Matt Goss, Liquigas-Cannondale for Peter Sagan, Rabobank for Michael Matthews and Garmin for Farrar.
The race was marked by an early breakaway by two Italian riders, Stefano Pirazzi (Colnago) and Diego Caccia (Farnese Vini). The two-man escape reached a maximum gap of 7:30 over the main group, before being neutralized with 29km remaining.
A crash in the peloton with 1.5km remaining slowed up half the pack, including Belgian champ Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing). Matthews was caught up in the crash; the young Aussie did not finish and headed to the hospital after the race. However, the majority of sprinters were already at the front jostling for position and stayed out of harm’s way.
Coming out of a sweeping right-hand turn with 500 meters to go, Garmin’s Robbie Hunter was positioned at the front of the field, setting up Farrar for the final kick.
The American launched his sprint too early, however, with first Cavendish and then Freire coming around Farrar 10 meters from the line. Sagan finished fourth, with Sacha Modolo (Colnago) fifth.
“I tried to do my best, but Cavendish slipstreamed Farrar, which gave him a great advantage, and I wasn’t able to close the gap,” Freire said.
Cavendish’s winning time was 6 hours, 32 minutes — a long and hard day, but necessary preparation for the March 17 classics opener Milan-San Remo, which runs 298km and took 2011 winner Goss almost seven hours.
Goss, who took the race lead at Tirreno following the stage 1 team time trial, finished with the front group on Thursday and retained the race leader’s jersey.