With Milano-Sanremo around the corner, Peter Sagan outsprints a reduced peloton on a rainy day in Italy to take his first victory of the

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Peter Sagan nabbed his first win of 2015 in a rainy sprint finish on the sixth stage of Tirreno-Adriatico. Having gone winless through February and the first half of March, despite collecting multiple second-place results along the way, Sagan was the day’s clear winner ahead of MTN-Qhubeka’s Gerald Ciolek and Lotto Soudal’s Jens Debusschere.

After a grueling stage 5 summit finish that opened major gaps on the Tirreno-Adriatico leaderboard, a mostly flat stage 6 did not offer quite the reprieve many might have expected, thanks to cold and wet conditions that confronted the peloton during the 210-kilometer journey from Rieti to Porto Sant’Elpidio. The weather may have contributed to a split in the peloton that saw many of the top sprinting names drop out of contention as the pack reached Porto Sant’Elpidio to begin a series of circuit loops around the finish line.

With the likes of Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick-Step), Luka Mezgec (Giant-Alpecin), and Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) distanced, Tinkoff-Saxo saw the opportunity to set up Sagan for the win against a reduced field. The yellow and blue squad took to the front with around fifty kilometers remaining in the race. Astana’s Alessandro Vanotti and Ag2r La Mondiale’s Alexis Vuillermoz broke clear in the final forty kilometers but Tinkoff-Saxo maintained a high pace to minimize the danger. With the gap to the second group of sprinters reading over four minutes inside the final thirty kilometers and making it clear that no one in that group was going to contend for the day’s victory, Tinkoff-Saxo continued to drive the pace as the peloton approached the finish line, eventually reeling in Vanotti and then Vuillermoz on the final lap.

With several riders still in the lead group, MTN-Qhubeka took the reins at the front of the peloton inside the final few kilometers hoping to set up Gerald Ciolek for the sprint, but Sagan positioned himself close behind the MTN-Qhubeka train. Edvald Boasson Hagen was the last support rider remaining on the front for Ciolek. When the Norwegian rider wound up his lead out to launch his German teammate, Sagan was placed immediately behind in third position, and as Ciolek opened up his sprint, Sagan jumped around him. The 25-year-old Slovakian powered to the finish well ahead of those behind, putting up both arms in celebration as he crossed the line. Sagan tightened his grip on the points classification in the process.

“I’m extremely happy and I would like to thank the entire Tinkoff-Saxo team because today they did a great job,” Sagan said. “They all helped me, including Alberto Contador who in the last two climbs pulled as hard as he could to break the group. We managed to drop a number of sprinters and pulled for the last 80km of the race until the finish. I’m very happy to have won such a tough stage. It’s a great victory for both the team and myself. Today’s stage couldn’t have gone better.”

Also crossing the line in the greatly reduced peloton, Nairo Quintana retained his race lead.

Tirreno-Adriatico concludes with a 10km individual time trial on stage 7 in San Benedetto del Tronto.