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In a close sprint, Gaviria came out on top in the hugely anticipated sprint battle between the Colombian and Ewan on stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico; Viviani was third and Stybar retained the lead

Photo: Tim De Waele










11.03.2016 @ 16:45 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-QuickStep) proved his status as probably the biggest sprint talent in the world by winning the first ever WordTour sprint he has ever done. In a hugely anticipated battle, he narrowly held off Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE), with Elia Viviani (Sky) being a very distant third. Zdenek Stybar retained the lead.


In January, Caleb Ewan dominated the sprints in Australia and Fernando Gaviria was in a class of his own in the bunch kicks at the Tour de San Luis. Since then everybody has been eagerly awaiting when the moment when the two biggest sprinting talents would finally clash.


That moment arrived today and when it did, it was even on one of the biggest scenes at the WorldTour race Tirreno-Adriatico. Despite a star-studded line-up of sprinters ready to go for the win, the pair confirmed their status by distancing everybody clearly on the uphill finishing straight and no one could have asked for a better clash between the talents.


In the end, it was Gaviria who emerged as the fastest in a very close finish on the uphill finishing straight, with Ewan failing to come around after the Colombian had launched a long sprint. The established sprinters were left to battle for third place, with Elia Viviani being the best of the rest in a distant third place.


However, it nearly looked like there was never going to be a sprint at all. A breakaway of Giorgio Cecchniel (Androni), Domingos Goncalves (Caja Rural), Davide Villella (Cannondale) and Adrian Honkisz (CCC) turned out to be much harder to catch than anyone had expected.


Orica-GreenEDGE and Etixx-QuickStep had been leading the chase all day with the trio of Svein Tuft, Yves Lampaert and Julien Vermote but apart from a small hand from Movistar, they hadn’t got any help. The gap was down to 1.20 with 20km to go and things seemed to be in control


During the next four kilometres, they gained 20 seconds on the escapees and it looked like there would be no danger. The three hard-working domestiques were still trading pulls and were now joined by Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEDGE).


With 11km to go, the gap was down to 40 seconds and the escapees passed the 10km to go barrier with an advantage of exactly 33 seconds. That’s where the situation changed as Lampaert and Tuft swung off, leaving it to just Durbridge and Vermote to set the pace.


Suddenly, the gap stabilized and it was around 30 seconds for a few kilometres. With 5km to go, it was even 35 seconds and there was still no support for Vermote and Durbridge.


However, there was a big injection of pace inside the final 5km and suddenly the gap melted away. With 2km to go, the quartet only had 10 seconds and with 1.4km to go, it was over.


At that point, IAM had hit the front, trying to set Leigh Howard up for the sprint but it was Tinkoff that took control under the flamme rouge. Daniele Bennati, Oscar Gatto and Adam Blythe did a perfect job to put Peter Sagan into position and the Slovakian was delivered on the front as they hit the finishing straight.


That’s where Gaviria made his move and he accelerated hard on the right-hand side of the world champion. He immediately got a big gap but still had Ewan on his wheel. The Australian tried to come around but when he hit the wind, his progress stalled and he had to settle for second place, with Viviani edging out Sagan in the battle for third.


It was a great day for Etixx-QuickStep as Zdenek Stybar arrived safely and so he retains his 9-second lead over Greg Van Avermaet in the overall standings. He faces a harder stage tomorrow on the fourth day. After a rolling start with just one categorized climb at the midpoint, the riders will hit the key climb of Montefalco for the first time, cresting the summit with 57.7km to go. Having reached the finish for the first time, they will do one lap of 46.4km circuit that includes the climbs of Trevi (4.0km, 5.3%, max. 16%) and Montefalco (5.5km, 4.1%, max. 18%, long stretches with gradients of over 12%) and the latter is located just 14.9km from the finish. With a flat finale, a reduced bunch sprint is expected.

One for the sprinters

After yesterday’s classics stage, the sprinters were expected to come to the fore in stage 3 which brought the riders over 176km from Castelnuovo val di Cecina to Montalto di Castro. After a rolling start, the riders hit a long, flat section and then a categorized climb at the midpoint. There was another uncategorized climb around 40km from the finish but from there it was slightly descending all the way to the finish where the riders faced a final kilometre that was slightly uphill.


It was a sunny day when the riders gathered for the start. Unfortunately, both Lukasz Owsian (CCC) and Alberto Losada (Katusha) who both crashed yesterday were absent as they started their neutral ride.


Five riders get clear

Unlike yesterday, it was a fast start to the stage and the riders did more than five kilometres of aggressive race before a break was finally established. Like yesterday Simone Andreetta (Bardiani) and Giorgio Cecchniel (Androni) were part of the action and they were joined by Domingos Goncalves (Caja Rural), Davide Villella (Cannondale) and Adrian Honkisz (CCC).


The peloton slowed down and the gap had reached 1.30 after 14km of racing. It had gone out to 4.44 just four kilometres later but that was as much as they would get at this point. At the 21km mark, the advantage had been reduced to 4.21 as Orica-GreenEDGE started to chase.


The chase gets organized

The riders covered 41.1km during the first hour and the break reached the 43km mark with an advantage of 4.24. As Etixx-QuickStep came to the fore to join Orica-GreenEDGE, the gap started to come down again and it was down to just 3.30 after 55km of racing.


Orica-GreenEDGE left the work to Etixx-QuickStep but they didn’t wasn’t to catch the break too early. They allowed it to go out to 4.09 when they crossed a railroad crossing – this time there were no problems like yesterday – and kept it around the four-minute mark with 100km to go.


Andreetta sits up

Andreetta was dropped from the breakaway which increased their advantage to 4.29 before Orica-GreenEDGE again started to chase. Meanwhile, Villella beat Goncalves in the intermediate sprint in Grossetto after a second hour during which the riders had averaged 40.2km/h. Here the gap was still 4.30.


Etixx-QuickStep continued to keep the gap stable and it was still 4.20 with 75km to go. Here Cecchniel was briefly forced to put his foot down after suffering a mechanical. At the same time, Orica-GreenEDGE continued their stop-start work as they rejoined Etixx-QuickStep on the front.


KOM points for Villella

Yves Lampaert (Etixx-QuickStep) and Sven Tuft (Orica-GreenEDGE) had the task to do the early work and they started to up the pace. With 70km to go, they had reduced the gap to 3.30 and as there was no stress, Eros Capecchi (Astana) easily rejoined the peloton after a mechanical.


The gap stayed around 3.30 as they went up the only categorized climb where Etixx-QuickStep added more firepower to the chase with Julien Vermote. At the top, Villella and Goncalves sprint for the KOM points but it was an easy win for the Italian, with Cecchinel crossing the line in third. The added power in the peloton paid off as the peloton was only 2.45 behind at the top, with the faster pace also being the result of a huge fight for position that had suddenly started


A moment of calmness

It was soon evident why the fight for position had intensified as the descent was very tricky. Honkisz was nearly dropped from the break and Etixx-QuickStep took complete control of the peloton with Vermote and Lampaert. With 53km to go, they had reduced the gap to just 2.10.


Lampaert ended his work and instead Tuft returned to the front. The lower stress after the descent and the faster pace in the break meant that the gap went out to 2.45 with 47km to go. It was even 3 minutes five kilometres later.


Movistar come to the fore

Lampaert returned to the front and traded pulls with Tuft and Vermote. The trio kept the gap just below the three-minute mark as they hit the small uncategorized climb.


After the top, they slowly increased the pace and they entered the final 30km with a gap of just 2 minutes.

Surprisingly, Movistar joined the chase with Andrey Amador, meaning that four riders were slowly reeling the break in. He quickly ended his work when the gap had dropped to 1.20 with 20km to go but in the end, they nearly mistimed their chase.



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