Mark Cavendish did without the usual sprint lead-out to win on Thursday in Indicatore, Italy. The second stage of Tirreno-Adriatico ended with a small group, top sprinters fighting towards the line. The team Sky cyclist edged up the right ahead of Oscar Freire and Tyler Farrar, and won.
"There was many guys, a lot of fighting," Cavendish said in the post-stage press conference. "My team were incredible at keeping me at front, out of the wind. [Edvald] Boasson Hagen did the last 1500 metres to keep me in the front."
Farrar used Garmin team-mate, Robbie Hunter to lead through the final metres, Cavendish had Edvald Boasson Hagen and kept an eye on Freire (Katusha). Farrar faded, Cavendish surged and Freire snuck around for second.
"At 200 metres to the line, I saw Farrar go," Cavendish continued. "When Farrar goes, it's not normally difficult to beat him so I could leave it a little bit late. I left it 20 metres and just ran up right behind him and passed him."
Cavendish has won 20 Tour de France stages and the World Championships, but surprisingly only one other stage Tirreno-Adriatico. It came in 2009, just four days before he won Milan-San Remo. He is using this race once again to prepare for San Remo, this time though, he wants to win as he did today, in the rainbow World Champion's jersey.
The win looked in doubt. After GreenEdge pulled to catch the two escapees, at 30 kilometres remaining in the 230km stage, the group took many forms. First GreenEdge was at the front for leader Matt Goss, then BMC Racing, Liquigas, Rabobank... Two different escapes went with two riders each.
"GreenEdge took control and we just sat behind them to make sure Cav was okay," Sky's Ian Stannard told Cycling Weekly. "We tried to be first into the important bits in the circuit."
Stannard eased off the pace with four kilometres remaining and turned it over to Boasson Hagen and Cavendish. By then, though, the group had splintered.
Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) attacked but then drifted back into the pack at two kilometres remaining. They were not left, not right, but in the centre of the road when the group approached them. It led to a crash.
Emerging rider, Michael Matthews (Rabobank) is worse off. The Australian is in the hospital, bruised right arm with 11 stitches and a wound on his right shin. He abandoned the race and will return to his home in Belgium to recover.
"It was really hectic in the finish," Farrar told Cycling Weekly. "When the last 3K are downhill and head-wind, guys can come from behind and it makes it harder to time it right."
His rival agreed.
"It was a strange last couple of laps [around Indicatore], it was hard to control it because of the wind and the constant change of direction. It was a hard day on paper, but because it was taken at a reasonable pace, there were a lot of fresh legs."
Goss took the lead yesterday after his GreenEdge team won the time trial. He had to fight back to the front after the crash just to protect the blue leader's jersey.
"It would have been nice to have a sprint today," he said in a press confidence. "It was really disappointing. We only have two opportunities here, one opportunity went out today. We have another one tomorrow."
Tomorrow, Tirreno-Adriatico covers 178 kilometres to Terni in Umbria. It is the last chance for Goss, Cavendish, Farrar and the other sprinters. On Saturday, the race climbs and Goss waves goodbye to his leader's jersey.
Tirreno-Adriatico 2012, stage two: San Vincenzo to Indicatore, 230km
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky in 6-32-32
2. Oscar Freire (Spa) Katusha
3. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Barracuda
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale
5. Sacha Modolo (Ita) Colnago-CSF Inox
6. Kenny Van Hummel (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM
7. Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
8. Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana
9. William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ-BigMat
10. Ruben Perez (Spa) Eskaltel-Euskadi all same time
Overall classification after stage two
1. Matt Goss (Aus) GreenEdge in 6-51-13
2. Stuart O'Grady (Aus) GreenEdge at same time
3. Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) GreenEdge at same time
4. Cameron Meyer (Aus) GreenEdge at same time
5. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky at 13 secs
6. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Barracuda at 13 secs
7. Daniele Bennati (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan at 17 secs
8. Chris Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan at 17 secs
9. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan at 17 secs
10. Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Garmin-Barracuda at 17 secs
Manuel Quinziato does a spot of DJing at the start
GreenEdge with leader Matt Goss
Team Sky work for Mark Cavendish
Mark Cavendish wins
Matt Goss retains the lead
Tirreno-Adriatico 2012: Latest news
Sprinters opt for Tirreno to warm up for Milan-San Remo
GreenEdge's time trial practice pays off
Tirreno-Adriatico 2012: Stage reports
Stage one: GreenEdge take Tirreno-Adriatico opening team time trial
Tirreno-Adriatico 2012: Related links
Tirreno-Adriatico 2012: The Big Preview
Tirreno-Adriatico 2012: Who will win?
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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