When the IAM Cycling crossed the finish line he forced many at Tirreno-Adriatico to look down at their start list. Number 87: Matteo Pelucchi, an Italian from Lecco. Most fan had expected one of the big names, like Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) or Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) to win today in Tuscany.
“I told myself at the start that a top five would be a good result,” Pelucchi said. “I didn’t expect I’d win.”
Kittel picked up and slammed his bike down in frustration. He cracked his handlebars leading into the sprint when he hit a hole and at 2.5 kilometres out, they were no longer strong enough to support him.
“I broke the right side of my handlebar and I crashed,” Kittel said. “That’s the story, no more. I was good, the team was good and we were confident.”
“I was behind Kittel with two kilometres to go when he crashed,” Cavendish explained. “Ahhh. After that it was difficult to get back up to the front. I had some help from some gentlemen in the peloton but I was tired.”
Cavendish left Tirreno-Adriatico without a win last year. It was his first season in Belgium’s Omega Pharma team and he experienced some growing pains. The team brought in Alessandro Petacchi last summer and signed his former Highroad lead-out man, Mark Renshaw for this year.
A win today with Omega’s newly-tuned train could have given Cavendish added confidence ahead of Milano-San Remo next Sunday. Instead of the black and white team, Tinkoff-Saxo and FDJ led over the roads close to Cavendish’s Italian base in Quarrata.
“We wanted to be ahead earlier but we worked all day. It’s not easy,” Petacchi said. “Renshaw also almost crashed. Maybe Mark was left behind in that moment. Saxo attacked. We were all lined out and it was hard to remount. When I saw Mark, I tried, but by then it was too late.”
Cavendish, still wearing the blue leader’s jersey from yesterday’s team trial win, placed 17th.
“The plan was to come late as possible,” Omega Pharma sports director, Brian Holm said. “Maybe it looks good on the television when you start at 10 kilometres out but trust me that’s not an advantage. The later you can start a sprint the better. Giant-Shimano did pretty well last year, they could wait and wait and they beat us on and off.”
Cavendish will have a harder time tomorrow because the stage ends with an uphill kick and with cobblestones in Arezzo’s centre. Last year, just outside of town in a town in Indicatore, Cavendish’s train derailed and Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEDdge) won. If he fails tomorrow, Monday’s stage to Porto Sant’Elpidio will offer his last chance to lock horns with the big guns like Kittel.
Pictures from the opening road stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, ending in a bunch sprint won by Matteo Pelucchi
Alex Dowsett goes on the attack but reeled in by bunch in final kilometres; Mark Cavendish keeps overall race lead