American Tyler Farrar of the Garmin won the third stage at Tirreno-Adriatico, beating Mark Cavendish (Columbia) and Italy's Enrico Rossi (Flaminia) in a high-speed sprint finish.
Alessandro Petacchi (LPR) started the sprint very early; Cavendish swept past him and looked set to win the sprint but then Farrar came off his wheel with 100 metres to go and managed to match Cavendish's speed. Cavendish eased up before the line and Farrar threw his bike at the line, winning by half a bike length.
Cavendish did not stop after the sprint, heading straight to the Columbia team bus for the long transfer to Foligno for Saturday?s stage.
Farrar and Cavendish finished at least two bike lengths ahead of the other sprinters, who could only watch from behind. Robbie McEwen (Katusha) was fourth, Tom Boonen (Quick Step) was fifth, Stuart O?Grady (Saxo Bank) was sixth and Robert Hunter (Barloworld) was sixth. Roger Hammond and Daniel Lloyd again worked hard as part of a fast Cervelo lead out but Thor Hushovd was only ninth.
FARRAR?S FIRST BIG WIN
It was Farrar?s ninth career win but his first major sprint victory against the fastest finishers in the world. He was fifth in last year?s Paris-Tours but proved he has the speed to win when things go his way.
Stage one winner Julien El Fares of France finished in the bunch and so retained the overall race lead. Petacchi is second at 15 seconds.
Tyler Farrar was amazed to have beaten all the best sprinters in the world.
?I felt that I was in good condition but to win in front of the other sprinters here is huge. It does a lot for my confidence and I hope it?s the first of many wins this year,? he said.
?I?ve won some smaller races but I?ve been searching for a victory against riders of this calibre for a few years. There?s no other word to describe it except fantastic.?
?My team mates Mike Friedman, Julian Dean and Martijn Maaskant worked really well for me in the final kilometres. Cavendish came inside me in the last corner and so I got on his wheel. I think he went a bit early and I could feel him slowing, so I took my chance.?
Farrar?s victory was the second win for the Garmin team this week after team leader Christian Vande Velde won stage four at Paris-Nice in France on Wednesday.
?Once a team starts winning, it just rolls on. Everyone believes more, as the same guy you beat at training camp just won, so why not me?? Team manager Jonathan Vaughters said in a Twitter message. Farrar agreed.
?My team is having a good week. Having Christian Vande Velde win in Paris-Nice mean these kinds of things build on each other and raises the moral of the team. Everyone is happy and optimistic. I hope someone else can win again and once you start going up things just get better and better.?
Farrar is not expected to be a contender at Milan-San Remo because of the long race distance and late climbs but he lives in Ghent and is targeting the Tour of Flanders and the Paris-Roubaix. Remember his name as he shares team leadership with Martijn Maaskant.
RIDERS FACE MUUR OF MONTELUPONE ON SATURDAY
After three days for the sprinters, Tirreno-Adriatico heads towards the Adriatic coast on Saturday for the 171km fourth stage from Foligno to Montelupone.
The stage ends with a short but brutal climb up to the finish line that is considered steeper than the Muur of Huy at Fleche-Wallonne.
Last year some riders were forced to walk up the climb after a 28 sprocket was not enough to get up the 20% sections. It should shake up the overall classification before the decisive 30km time trial on Sunday.
Tirreno-Adriatico stage three: Results
1. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Slipstream 166km in 3hrs 53mins 48secs
2. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Columbia
3. Enrico Rossi (Ita) Ceramica Flaminia
4. Robbie McEwen (Aus) Katusha
5. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
6. Stuart O?Grady (Aus) Saxo Bank
7. Robert Hunter (Rsa) Barloworld
8. Luca Paolini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
9. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo
10. Borut Bozic (Slo) Vacansoleil
53. Dan Lloyd (Gbr) Cervelo
60. Roger Hammond (Gbr) Cervelo
68. Geraint Thomas (Gbr) Barloworld all same time
168. Steve Cummings (Gbr) Barloworld at 1min 8secs
180. Charly Wegelius (Gbr) Silence at 1min 54secs.
Overall classification after stage three
1. Julien El Fares (Fra) Cofidis 8hrs 6mins 32secs
2. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) LPR at 15sec
3. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas at s.t
4. Enrico Rossi (Ita) Ceramica Flaminia at 20secs
5. Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis at 25secs
6. Assan Bazayev (Kaz) Astana
7. Matti Breschel (Den) Saxo Bank
8. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Lampre
9. G. Hincapie (Usa) Columbia
10. Lorenzo Bernucci (Ita) LPR all same time
50. Dan Lloyd (Gbr) Cervelo at 1min 29secs
108. Geraint Thomas (Gbr) Barloworld at 7mins 4secs
134. Mark Cavendish (Gbr) Columbia at 9mins 29secs
156. Roger Hammond (Gbr) Cervelo all at 11mins 45secs
166. Steve Cummings (Gbr) Barloworld at 12mins 53secs
180. Charly Wegelius (Gbr) Silence at 16mins 10secs.
Stage two: Petacchi wins Tirreno-Adriatico sprint
Stage one: Breakaway surprises the sprinters
Mechanical problem wrecks Cavendish?s Tirreno chances
Preview: Sprinters gather for Tirreno-Adriatico
2009 Tirreno-Adriatico route unveiled
2008: Cancellara wins Tirreno-Adriatico
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