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With a perfectly timed attack over the top of the final climb, Stybar got a small gap over a reduced peloton and managed to hold off a reduced peloton to win stage 2 of Tirreno-Adriatico and take the overall lead; Sagan was second, Boasson...

Photo: Etixx-QuickStep / Tim De Waele










10.03.2016 @ 17:30 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) made up for the disappointment of failing to defend his Strade Bianche title as he claimed an impressive solo win in the difficult second stage of Tirreno-Adriatico. Timing his attack over the top of the final climb with 3km to go perfectly, he got an immediate gap and held off a reduced peloton by one second to take both the stage win and the leader’s jersey. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) easily beat Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) in the sprint for second.


Zdenek Stybar decided to skip the Belgian opening weekend to be fully ready for his title defence at Strade Bianche. The race ended as a disappointment as he and Gianluca Brambilla failed to capitalize on their numerical superiority and were beaten by an outstanding Fabian Cancellara.


Stybar had another disappointment yesterday when his Etixx-QuickStep team took another second place in the opening team time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico but the result gave him a shot at the leader’s jersey in the Italian race as he was only 2 seconds behind the leading BMC riders. As stage 2 was tailor-made for classics riders with a solid punch and great technical skills, Stybar was keen to grab his opportunity and he did so with both hands as he made a perfectly timed attack that saw him take both the stage win and the leader’s jersey.


The race really came to life on the lower slopes of the final climb with 9km to go. It was a 6.5km ascent that had some gentle gradients and a short steep ramp near the top, leading to three rolling kilometres that were very technical.


Stybar was in a good position as Sky upped the pace and brought the early break back. Michal Golas and Salvatore Puccio strung things out and made the group explode to pieces. One of them was Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-QuickStep) who sat up early.


With 8km to go, Alberto Losada hit the deck and looked groggy as his teammate Marco Haller waited for him. That didn’t stop the Sky train which remained in control until BMC took over with 6km to go as Damiano Caruso surged forward with Greg Van Avermaet, Tejay van Garderen and Daniel Oss on his wheel. Meanwhile, Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) was a surprise victim to the fast pace.


With 5km to go, Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) launched an attack but he was marked by Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r) and Edvald Boasson Hagen. Montaguti continued to ride on the front to keep Jan Bakelants in a good position until Androni took over with an Androni rider leading Francesco Gavazzi to the front.


Tinkoff and Dimension Data fought hard for the front positions, with Daniele Bennati and Reinardt van Rensburg even colliding. The South African won the battle and led the field when Androni sent Mirko Selvaggi off in an attack.


Selvaggi quickly got a nice advantage while Peter Kennaugh (Sky) took over the pace-setting in the 50-rider peloton. However, he was quickly passed when Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) attacked hard in the steepest section. However, Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep), Oscar Gatto (Tinkoff) and Boasson Hagen marked him closely.


Brambilla took a short turn but as no one was really committed the pace went down. That was the perfect opportunity for Stybar who used the hesitation to attack. He won the KOM sprint ahead of Davide Formolo (Cannondale) and Gatto. He quickly got a big gap before Formolo started to chase, trying to set Simon Clarke up for the sprint.


Stybar excelled in the technical finale and extended his lead. Gatto started to chase for Tinkoff but didn’t get any closer until Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) launched a strong attack with less than 1km to go. However, Stybar was already on the finishing straight and had plenty of time to celebrate his win. Nibali was caught just metres from the line before Peter Sagan easily beat Boasson Hagen in the sprint for second.


With a 1-second gap and 10 bonus seconds, Stybar takes the overall lead with a 9-second advantage over the BMC quartet of Van Avermaet, van Garderen, Caruso and Oss. He will try to defend his position in stage 3 which could be an opportunity for the sprinters. After a rolling start, a flat section leads to the only cactegorized climb whose summit comes 64.2km from the finish. There’s another uncategorized climb with around 40km to go and from there it is mainly slightly descending. However, the finishing straight is slightly uphill, meaning that the punchier guys may fancy their chances against the sprinters.


A tricky finale

After opening team time trial, the riders already faced some serious climbing in stage 2 which brought them over 207km from Camaiore to Pomarance. After an opening flat section along the coast, the terrain got hillier in the second half where they faced a first categorized climb whose summit was located 57.4km from the finish. In the finale, they tackled a 6.5km climb which averaged 4.2% but had a very steep 18% section just 3km from the finish. From there, it was a rolling and very technical finish until the riders hit the 100m uphill finishing straight that averaged 7.8%.


It was a sunny day in Italy when the riders gathered for the start in temperature of 16 degrees. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Katusha) and Bert De Backer (Giant-Alpecin) are both sick and were therefore absent gathered under a sunny sky and in 12-degree temperatures They had no big plans to race hard from the beginning, and therefore Giorgio Cecchninel (Andron), Simone Andreetta (Bardiani), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18), Lluis Mas (Caja Rural), Nikolay Mihaylov (CCC) and Federico Zurlo (Lampre-Merida) escaped right from the gun.


BMC take control

After only 6km of racing, they had opened a gap of 2.09, and it grew rapidly. After 12km it was 4.23 and it reached 4.36 at the 15km mark where BMC slowly increased the pace. The American team briefly stabilized the gap around 4.30, but then slowed down and allowed the break to extend the lead to 6.34 after 36 kilometers.


It was the signal for BMC to increase speed again, and when the riders had completed the first 50 km, the escapees were only 6.00 ahead of the field. The lead was kept relatively stable for some time and reached a maximum of 6.45 after 66km of racing.


A closed railroad crossing

BMC were not in a hurry and therefore the gap was still 6.18 after two hours during which they had averaged 42.11 km / h. They also got an unexpected break as both the bunch and the escapees were stopped by a railroad crossing immediately after the feed zone, and the race was restarted with a gap between the groups at 6.06 after the short rest of about five minutes.


With 90km to go, BMC had allowed the gap to go out to 6.55 but now it was time for them to increase the speed. Jempy Drucker was doing the majority of the work with some assistance from Alessandro De Marchi, Manuel Quinziato and Taylor Phinney.


Zurlo wins the KOM sprint

The work paid off and the gap was down to 5.40 with 68km to go. When the escapees hit the first climb five kilometres later, it was down to five minutes.


Phinney set the pace for the first half of the ascent, keeping the gap stable until Quinzato took over in the second half. Meanwhile, Andreetta and Mas fought for the points in the first intermediate sprint, with the Italian coming out on top. Benedetti was third. A few kilometres later, Mas tried to surprise his rivals with a long sprint in the battle for the first KOM points but it was Zurlo who easily beat Benedetti in the sprint. At this point, the gap was down to 4.30.


BMC up the pace

After the climb, Drucker again hit the front and traded pulls with his teammates Quinziato, Phinney and De Marchi. They were now riding a lot harder and while the big teams started to fight for positon, they reduced the gap. It was 4.10 with 57km to go, 3.40 with 49km to go and was only 3.40 when Andreetta was allowed to take maximum points in the final intermediate sprint five kilometres later.


With 38km to go, Bauke Mollema (Trek) suffered a puncture and had to work hard with Yaroslav Popovych to rejoin the peloton as the BMC pace was now fierce. At this point, the gap was 2.25 and things only got faster when the fight for position really intensified 35km from the finish.


Drucker ends his work

The gap dropped to less than 2 minute with 31km to go and it was Drucker doing the majority of the work. It was down to 1.40 with 25km to go and when Drucker swung off after taking one huge final turn with 19km to go, the escapes were only 55 seconds behind.


Phinney, De Marchi and Quinziato continued to set the pace while Tomasz Marczynski (Lotto Soudal) had an untimely puncture. The hard fight for position meant that the gap was down to just 30 seconds with 15km to go.


The break is caught

Andreetta tried to attack but failed to get clear. Moments later, Cecchinel sat up and he was swallowed up by the peloton which was now led by Vasil Kiryienka and the rest of the Sky train.


With 12km to go, the escapees hit the climb with a 15-second advantage and it was still Kiryienka leading the chase. The British team held off a surge from BMC while the escapees started to attack each other. Benedetti accelerated and only Mas and Andreetta could match him. However, the splintering peloton was breathing down their neck. Andreetta made one final attempt but Benedetti was the final rider to be swallowed up with 9km to go where a new race started.



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