Germany?s Andreas Kloden of the Astana team won Tirreno-Adriatico on Tuesday by a slim margine of just four seconds after finishing safely in the bunch at the end of the final stage to San Benedetto del Tronto.
Kloden started the stage just three seconds ahead of Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile) but managed to extend his lead by a second in the first intermediate sprint and then finished just behind the leading sprinters who fought for the stage victory. Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) was third at 13 seconds to give the Astana team an impressive overall result, with time trial stage winner Stefan Schumacher fourth at 23 seconds.
Spain?s Koldo Fernandez of the Euskaltel team won the final stage from Civitella del Tronto to San Benedetto del Tronto ahead of Australia?s Stuart O?Grady and Gabriele Balducci of Italy in a sprint finish. Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) was blocked by a crash two kilometres from the finish and did not contest the final sprint along the seafront. New Zealand national champion Julian Dean lead out the sprint for his Credit Agricole captain Thor Hushovd but the big Norwegian went too early and was overtaken by Fernandez who took his first ever race as a professional.
It was Kloden?s fifteenth win of his ten-year professional career and the first big win for the new Astana team sponsored by companies from Kazakhstan.
?This is a great win for me and the Astana team. I won Paris-Nice in 2000 and now it?s nice to have won the other big spring stage race,? Kloden said.
?I won by only a few seconds but I was confident during the last stage and contested the first intermediary sprint to pick up an extra second. I have to thank the whole team for helping me win and I even got a call from the President of Kazakhstan congratulating me on my victory. I had a good winter without any problem and so started the season in good shape. To be honest I started the race thinking I?d use it as training for the rest of the season but I felt good, our team was strong and so we raced the final stages to win.?
NO MILAN-SAN REMO FOR KLODEN
Most of the riders at Tirreno-Adriatico will also ride the prestigious Milan-San Remo one-day race in northern Italy on Saturday but Kloden is focusing specifically on the Tour de France in July.
?I?m not going to ride Milan-San Remo and neither is my team mate Vinokourov because we?re stage race riders and wouldn?t have a chance against all the sprinters,? he said.
?I also don?t want to risk crashing and ruining my season because the Tour de France is my big objective of the year. We?re going to take on Ivan Basso and hopefully by riding together, one of us can win the Tour de France.?
Kloden said he would be back in action at the two-day Criterium International stage race in northern France that starts on March 31.
The rest of the peloton headed north ready for the centennial edition of Milan-San Remo on Saturday. Some plan to visit the final kilometres of the course on Thursday to memorise the climbs and descents of the Cipressa and Poggio but most will be resting up for the 294-km race.
There will be a detailed preview and report from the race by Stephen Farrand here at cyclingweekly.co.uk
RESULTS: FINAL STAGE
1 Koldo Fernandez (ESP) Euskaltel-Euskadi 177km in 4-38-43
2 Stuart O’Grady (AUS) CSC
3 Gabriele Balducci (ITA) Acqua a Sapone
4 Ariel Maximilia (ARG) Ceramica Panaria
5 Allan Davis (AUS) Discovery Channel
6 Danilo Napolitano (ITA) Lampre-Fondital
7 Robbie McEwen (AUS) Predictor-Lotto
8 David Kopp (GER) Gerolsteiner
9 Ren Haselbacher (AUT) Astana
10 Thor Hushovd (NOR) Credit Agricole all at same time
RESULTS: FINAL GENERAL CLASSIFICATION
1 Andreas Kloden (GER) Astana 1111.8km in 28-31-26
2 Kim Kirchen (LUX) T-Mobile at 4secs
3 Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ) Astana at 13secs
4 Stefan Schumacher (GER) Gerolsteiner at 23secs
5 Janez Brajkovic (SLO) Discovery Channel at 31secs
6 Jens Voigt (GER) CSC at 34secs
7 Vasil Kiryienka (BLR) Tinkoff at 55secs
8 Evgeni Petrov (RUS) Tinkoff at 59secs
9 Michele Scarponi (ITA) Acqua e Sapone at 1-00
10 Michael Boogerd (NED) Rabobank at 1-12