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Having joined a six-rider breakaway inside the final 5km, Cummings made a well-timed solo attack to take the win on stage 4 of Tirreno-Adriatico; Puccio beat Berhane in the sprint for second and Stybar retained the lead

Photo: A.S.O.

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NTT PRO CYCLING TEAM

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NATNAEL BERHANE

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SALVATORE PUCCIO

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STEPHEN CUMMINGS

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TIRRENO - ADRIATICO

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ZDENEK STYBAR

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12.03.2016 @ 17:26 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Stephen Cummings (Dimension Data) confirmed his status as one of the greatest stage hunters in the cycling world by claiming an impressive solo victory in the hilly stage 4 of Tirreno-Adriatico. Having made it into a six-rider move in the uncontrollable flat run-in after the final climb, he made a well-rimed attack with 3km to go and held off his chasers by 19 seconds before Salvatore Puccio (Sky) beat Cummings’ teammate Natnael Berhane in the sprint for second. Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) finished safely in the peloton and retained the lead.

 

For many years, Stephen Cummings had an anonymous role as a domestique in big teams like BMC and Sky. However, he was never comfortable with that job and was looking for a team where he could take his own opportunities in breakaways.

 

He had already proved his potential by winning stages at the Vuelta a Espana and the Tour of Beijing when he joined Dimension Data for the 2015 last year and he immediately grabbed his opportunity by taking a memorable stage win at the Tour de France. Today he did it again when he came out on top in the hilly fourth stage of Tirreno-Adriatico by joining a late attack after the final climb.

 

The stage ended with a lap of a flat hilly circuit that included the climbs of Trevi and Montefalco. The top of the latter was located just 14.9km from the finish and after a short descent, it was a flat run-in to the finish and this is where Cummings saw an opportunity to deny the sprinters.

 

Tinkoff and Etixx-QuickStep had caught the early break relatively early on the final circuit and it was a big fight for position between the major teams that all wanted to position their leaders for the final climb. Tinkoff took complete control with Manuele Boaro as they entered the final 25km, with Trek trying to pass them. Daniel Oss (BMC) and Andrey Amador (Movistar) took over with 20km to go where Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) rejoined the peloton after a previous

 

Fabian Cancellara took a massive turn for Trek on the lower slopes of the climb and he immediately made the peloton split. The Swiss set the pace for most of the ascent, followed by teammates Jasper Stuyven and Bauke Mollema.

 

Cancellara reduced the peloton significantly until less than one kilometre remained. Here Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) attacked. Salvatore Puccio (Sky) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) took off in pursuit but Astana shut it down immediately.

 

Puccio took over the pace-setting but it was Ulissi who led Pozzovivo, Nibali and the rest of the peloton over the top. As they started the descent, Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) and Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r) attacked but Dimension Data immediately shut it down.

 

Dimension Data took control with two riders but then the attacking started. The South African team even went on the attack with Natnael Berhane but it was difficult to get clear.

 

Surprisingly, Peter Sagan made a move with 8km to go but of course he got no room. Instead, it was Puccio who made a move for Sky and he got a small gap.

 

Cancellara took a short turn before the attacking again started. Rodolfo Torres (Androni) and Stephen Cummings (Dimension Data) bridged the gap. More riders tried but as they had the rest of the peloton in tow, it was back together twith 5km to go.

 

Montaguti tried again and he was joined by Puccio and Cummings. They got an immediate gap as no one managed to take control.

 

Daniel Moreno (Movistar), Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) and Berhane took off in pursuit and made the junction with 3km to go. That’s when Cummings took a turn excellently and got an immediate gap. There was no cooperation in the chase group and so he increased his advantage before the chasers finally started to cooperate.

 

Cummings looked back with 500m to go and had plenty of time to celebrate his win. Bakelants tried to launch a long sprint but was passed by Puccio and Berhane who had to settle for second and third respectively. Sagan easily won the sprint for seventh.

 

Zdenek Stybar finished safely in the peloton and so retained his 9-second advantage over the BMC trio of Damiano Caruso, Greg Van Avermaet and Tejay van Garderen. He faces the biggest test tomorrow which is the day of the queen stage. It’s a day full of ups and downs with numerous big climbs and the riders will tackle a total of four mountains before they descend to the bottom of the Monte San Vicino where the final battle will take place. It’s a 10km climb with an average gradient of almost 8%, making it a perfect finale for the best climbers.

 

A hilly stage

After yesterday’s sprint stage, it was back into hillier terrain for stage 3 which brought the riders over a massive 222km from Montalto di Castro to Foligno. After a lumpy first half, there was an early categorized climb at the midpoint before the riders hit the difficult finishing circuit that included the short, very steep climbs of Trevi and Montefalco. The riders tackled the latter climb once before they completed the 46.6km circuit once, with the top of the final climb being located 14.9km from the flat finish.

 

It was another sunny day in Italy when the riders gathered for the start and all riders that finished yesterday were present as they rolled through the neutral zone. Surprisingly, there were no immediate attacks but gradually the action got underway, with no one getting clear in the first 5km.

 

Conti and Vilela get clear

A strong group with Jesse Sergent (Ag2r), Aleksej Saramotins (IAM), Pim Ligthart (Lotto Soudal), Christopher Juul (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo) surged clear and had an advantage of 14 seconds at the 8km mark. Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani) made the junction but they still only had 12 seconds at the 12km mark. They managed to extend their advantage slightly before Lluis Mas (Caja Rural) and Alberti Timmer (Giant-Alpecin) also made the junction but the move was ultimately neutralized and it was a compact field that got to the 15km mark.

 

Ricardo Vilela (Caja Rural) and Valerio Conti (Lampre-Merida) were the next to try and they were given the green light to surge clear. As the peloton slowed down, they quickly got an advantage of 1.34 before Manuel Bongiorno (Bardiani) and Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18) took off in pursuit.

 

The chasers make the junction

The two chasers approached the front group which had extended the gap to 2.53 at the 22km mark. Moments later, the junction was made and a front quartet had been formed after less than 25km of racing.

 

The peloton was still riding very slowly and so the gap went out to 6.55 before Etixx-QuickStep upped the pace. They reduced the gap to 6.26 after 40km of racing and covered only 34.8km during the first hour.

 

Etixx-QuickStep take control

Etixx-QuickStep were slowly reeling the break in, reducing the gap to 5.45 in the city of Viterbo and it wa 6.36 at the 50km mark. The gap hovered between the 5-and 6-minute marks for a while on a slow day when the riders covered just 35.25km during the second hour.

 

The gap was down to 5.04 at the 67km mark when the escapees started to climb towards the first intermediate sprint. Here Conti was first followed by Vilela, Bongiorno and Benedetti while the peloton was led by Etixx-QuickStep 5.40 later.

 

Tinkoff up the pace

The situation was constantly stable despite the course getting slightly harder and the gap was still 5.14 at the 100km mark. The riders covered 34.86km during the third hour before they reached the feed zone with a gap of 4.44, the lowest since the start of the race.

 

Valerio Conti also won the second intermediate sprint in Terni where the gap was 5.00 and then they started to tackle the first categorized ascent. Here Tinkoff joined forces with Etixx-QuickStep and started to bring the break back. 3km from the top, they had reduced the gap to 4.15 and it was 4.11 when Benedetti beat Conti, Bongiorno and Vilela in the KOM sprint.

 

The gap comes down

The escapees reached the end of the fourth hour with an average speed of just 33.5km/h but as Tinkoff and Etixx-QuickStep ha really upped the pace, they had to react. With 80km to go, the gap was down to 3.50 and it was down to around 3 minutes 10km later. Here it stabilized as they approached the first passage of the Montefalco climb.

 

Tony Martin was taking some massive turns for Etixx-QuickStep,trading pulls with Evgeny Petrov (Tinkoff), but they saw all the big teams line up their trains next to them as the fight for position intensified massively. It had a big impact on the gap which had dropped to 2.30 by the time the riders hit the climb.

 

Conti takes off

Conti tried to attack right from the bottom but failed to get clear. When he went again, only Bongiorno could follow while Benedetti and Vilela were dropped. Meanwhile, the peloton were getting closer and not even a small crash in the rear end of the field could prevent them from reducing the gap to 1.50 with 60km to go.

 

Gatis Smukulis upped the pace for Astana in the run-in to the climb before Valerio Agnoli took over the pace-setting as the road started to point upwards. He immediately did a lot of damage as several riders were dropped.

 

Solo move by Conti

Conti went again two kilometres from the top and this time Bongiorno was unable to follow. He did really well to extend this advantage to 2.05 at the top of the climb. Benedetti was second, followed by Bongiorno in third. In the peloton, Agnoli set the pace all the way to the summit, with Andrey Amador moving up next to him as they approached the KOM sprint to keep Alejandro Valverde in a good position for the descent.

 

Eros Capecchi hit the front for Astana as they sped towards the flat run-in to the finish but the speed went down after the descent. With 50km to go, the peloton was 2 minutes behind Conti who had 30 seconds on his chasers Benedetti and Bongiorno.

 

FDJ hit the front

Vilela decided to wait for the peloton which was led by Smukulis as they headed along flat roads towards the finish. Conti managed to keep the gap around 2.10 while the peloton took a short breather while also trying to stay in position. A small crash in the finishing city did not have a great impact.

 

With 40m to go, the gaps had gone out to 1.25 and 2.15 respectively and in the peloton, all the big teams were lined out on the front. FDJ took control with most of the team as they approached the Trevi climb and they held off a surge from Sky. At the same time, a small crash involved Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff) and Agnoli.

 

Conti is caught

The two chasers were brought back as the pace ramped up. Etixx-QuickStep took control as they approached the Trevi climb and as a consequence the gap melted away. Meanwhile, Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Davide Formolo (Cannondale) had very untimely mechanicals. At the bottom of the ascent, the gap was down to less than a minute.

 

Pim Ligthart (Lotto Soudal) attacked right from the bottom and got an immediate gap as the pace briefly went down, with Movistar and BMC lined out on the front. The Spanish team quickly took control and it didn’t take long for them to bring Amador back. With 31km to go, it was also over for Conti.

 

Movistar do some damage

Amador and Nelson Oliveira set the pace and it was the former who led the peloton over the top. Further back, Formolo had more bad luck as he was involved in a crash with Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) who got a bike from teammate Nicola Boem.

 

Movistar set the pace on the descent while Tinkoff moved up next to them as the fight for position for the climb started. LottoNL-Jumbo, Tinkoff , BMC and FDJ also came to the fore, with Maciej Bodnar, Steve Morabito and Daniel Oss all showing themselves. Moments later they hit the climb where the exciting finale kicked off.

 

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