By Nigel Wynn
Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) has become the first Belgian rider to win Tirreno-Adriatico since Roger de Vlaeminck in 1977, doing enough to secure the victory after Tuesday's final time trial. Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) won the stage with a typically fast performance.
Without Sunday's cancelled 'queen' mountain stage, the overall classification was very tightly packed before the TT, with only 34 seconds separating the entire top 10. Overnight race leader Van Avermaet started the day seven seconds ahead of Stybar and eight ahead of Sagan.
Sagan put in a solid ride reminiscent of the one that propelled him to the overall victory in the Tour of California in 2015, and it looked like he might have done enough.
Van Avermaet – not traditionally as strong as Sagan against the clock – needed to be within seven seconds to secure the overall win. He did it - just.
A single second separated Sagan and Van Avermaet in the final general classification, giving Sagan yet another runner-up spot to add to his expanding collection. It's Van Avermaet's first WorldTour stage race overall victory.
In terms of the stage, Cancellara was head and shoulders above everyone else, clocking the fastest time on the completely flat 10.1-kilometre course in San Benedetto del Tronto. On his way, Cancellara not only caught the man who set off a minute ahead of him, but the one that set off two minutes ahead too.
Johan Le Bon (FDJ) was second on the stage at 13 seconds, with Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) in third at 15 seconds.
Le Bon put down a surprise early fast time, continuing to reap the benefits of FDJ's off-season focus on aerodynamics and time trial training – the squad were collectively third in the Tirreno opening team time trial.
Even former world champion Martin failed to beat Le Bon, and it was down to Cancellara to finally better the Frenchman's mark - the only rider who did.
British time trial champion Alex Dowsett (Movistar) placed fourth on the stage, only fractionally slower than Martin. Fellow Brit Adam Blythe (Tinkoff) wasn't so fortunate, taking a tumble out on the course and finishing in last place.
Many of the riders taking part in Tirreno-Adriatico will now turn their attention to the next WorldTour race on the calendar, Milan-San Remo on Saturday (March 19).
Tirreno-Adriatico 2016, stage seven: San Benedetto del Tronto, 10.1km (ITT)
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek-Segafredo in 11-08
2. Johan Le Bon (Fra) FDJ at 13 secs
3. Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx-QuickStep at 15 secs
4. Alex Dowsett (GBr) Movistar at 15 secs
5. Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Tinkoff at 17 secs
6. Alexandre Geniez (Fra) FDJ at 18 secs
7. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data at 19 secs
8. Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Team Sky at 20 secs
9. Damiano Caruso (Uta) BMC Racing at 22 secs
10. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff at 24 secs
12. Steve Cummings (GBr) Dimension Data at 24 secs
Final general classification
1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing in 20-42-22
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff at 1 sec
3. Bob Jungels (Lux) Etixx-QuickStep at 23 secs
4. Sebastien Reichenbach (Swi) FDJ at 24 secs
5. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ at 24 secs
6. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 29 secs
7. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixxx-QuickStep at 33 secs
8. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky at 39 secs
9. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 45 secs
10. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff at 48 secs
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