A late move gave Peter Sagan a victory in the third stage of Tirreno-Adriatico on Friday.
The Cannondale rider matched an attack by Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) with 400 meters left, and then patiently waited until the time was right — about 200 meters before the finish line — to surge ahead for the win.
Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was second and Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) finished third in the 206-kilometer stage from Cascina to Arezzo. Kwiatkowski now leads the overall standings with four days of racing left.
“It was an important victory for me to prove that my condition is growing,” said Sagan. “I’m very happy, of course. This win is good for morale, for me, and my teammates as well, who need a special thanks for the great support they give me every day along every stage. I dedicate the win to my mother, who is not in good health.”
Gilbert seemed to take off a bit early, and Sagan stayed hot on his heels. The Belgian ran out of steam with the finish line just ahead and dropped back. He placed fourth in the stage.
Kwiatkowski holds a 10-second advantage over teammate Rigoberto Uran in the GC. Clarke is third, 13 seconds behind Kwiatkowski.
The route was mostly flat and was expected to end in a bunch sprint. In the final 10km, teams were jockeying for position at the front of the peloton as they tried to put their sprinters in a spot to contend for the win. This list of riders included Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma), who had led the race since the opening team time trial, Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), and Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Bennati and Greipel finished in the top 10, taking sixth and seventh.
Bjorn Thurau (Europcar) rode out front all day but was caught by the speeding peloton with 6km remaining. From that point, Omega Pharma, Tinkoff, and BMC assumed controls at the front, pushing some big power numbers as the pace quickened. The riders were racing elbow-to-elbow at a very high speed.
Gilbert was sitting fourth as the field passed under the 1km banner. He made his move shortly after that but was unsuccessful.
“The finale was really confusing,” Sagan said. “Everybody wanted to be in the front today starting from the last 10 km. Longo Borghini took me to leading position at 3 km to go. It was not easy to keep there. I’ve lost some positions before the uphill, but then the Bennati’s action was the right one for me to take the front. Then, when Gilbert attacked I was not worried. I think he did it a little bit early, but most important for me it was the great feeling I had. Of course, I looked to the other riders, but I first concentrated on doing my best. The final uphill was hard, a brutal effort, but worth it in the end.”
The race heads into the mountains this weekend ahead of Tuesday’s time trial finale.