Greg Van Avermaet wins Tirreno-Adriatico
Greg Van Avermaet won his first Tirreno-Adriatico in style as he kept Peter Sagan off the top spot in the GC by just 1″.
He was put in a good position by his BMC team who won the first stage – a Team Time Trial – of which BMC have previously been the World Champions. The team managed to finish the 22.7km course in 23’55” which won them the stage ahead of Etixx-QuickStep (+2″) and FDJ (+19″).
Stage 2’s hilly finish lent itself to the classics riders who were taking part in the race as Zdenek Stybar of Etixx-Quickstep took the stage as well as the leader’s blue jersey in a technical masterclass. Stybar waited to make his move until the final short climb of Il Cerreto – 18% average gradient – where Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) and Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) surged forward, reducing the peloton down to around 20 riders.
Stybar took his chance as the pace slackened briefly near the top of the climb and he used his cyclo-cross style hike handling abilities to hammer home his advantage on the technical descent and tight run in to the line despite a chase from the bunch who finished 1″ behind him on the day. Greg Van Avermaet moved up into second on the GC with a deficit of 9″ to Stybar.
Stage 3 was more to the linking of the sprinters but it was still Etixx-QuickStep who dominated the race, with Fernando Gaviria taking victory in the bunch sprint after betaing off challenges from Elia Viviani (Team Sky) and Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) to win the stage and keep Stybar in the blue jersey. Sagan’s Tinkoff Team was able to put him in a strong position going into the final few kilometers but he was overtaken by pure sprinters and could only manage 4th.
Steve Cummings won Stage 4, although it was more of an accident than a strategic move as he was working for his Team Dimension Data teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen. Cummings had been Boasson Hagen’s marshal all day in the peloton and when he was aksed to keep chasing down attacks on the fast paced final 20km, he found himself at the front of the race in what would turn out to be a winning move.
Cummings managed to get himself into a group of several riders that moved clear in just after the final climb and sat in as an anchor, refusing to do any work to help the group but as they went into the final 3km Cummings knew Boasson Hagen wouldn’t be there for the stage win and attacked himself and solo’d to victory.
As with Paris-Nice, a stage cancellation affected Tirreno-Adriatico with Stage 5 being cancelled due to the amount of snow on the course with all times carrying over to Stage 6.
Stage 6 was a relatively flat day that included a finishing circuit in Cepagatti and with the peloton all together, a group of eight riders including Greg Van Avermaet, world champion Peter Sagan, race leader Zdenek Stybar and Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) launched themselves off the front on the first of the two laps.
They stayed away for the rest of the race when Kwiatkowski attacked in the final kilometer and managed to distance Stybar and team mate Gaviria before Sagan managed to burn past the former world champion with just 200m to go. With Kwiatkowski unable to respond it was Greg Van Avermaet who was able to stay on Sagan’s wheel and come round him to beat him on the line to take the stage and the race lead.
The final stage was a pan flat 10.1km individual time trial which was won by Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) although everybody was watching the battle between Sagan and Van Avermaet, who started the day with an 8″ advantage over the world champion.
Sagan buried himself and was able to put time into Van Avermaet, but it wasn’t enough as he only clawed back 7″ to finish second on the GC a single second behind Van Avermaet.