The weather gods continued to play their cruel joke on the field of riders who elected to ride Tirreno - Adriatico rather than Paris - Nice for the better weather, dumping a third straight day of rain on the course and ensuring an interesting run into the town of Narni Scalo for the final sprint. As with yesterday's stage, there was little doubt today would end in a sprint finish, though the gradual rise and then technical descent and approach into Narni Scalo would create an interesting - and perhaps treacherous - final few kilometers.
Cesare Benedetti (NetApp-Endura), Garikoitz Bravo (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Francesco Failli (Fantini Vini-Selle Italia) were the foolhardy souls who decided to go in the early break and while they pried open a five minute gap, they were back in the fold at 20km to go. Action picked up for a little bit, as Juan Antonio Flecha, Fabian Cancellara, and Lars Boom launched successive attacks on a gradual rise in the final 15 kilometers.
Omega Pharma - Quickstep, ORICA-GreenEDGE, and Cannondale Pro Cycling would have none of these shenanigans, though, and we were treated to yet another day of interesting sprinting. While yesterday it was Matt Goss who led across the line, his leadout train took him on a detour in a roundabout in the final 2km. While he regained position before the sprint, the effort might have cost him some finishing speed and he was only able to finish fifth.
Aside from Goss's fall, there were a number of similarities to yesterday's sprint. Peter Sagan opened it up, though he waited until approximately 150m from the line this time. Though Greipel was well-positioned, he seemed to lack the speed to come around Sagan and had to settle for third. This time, Mark Cavendish's position was better than yesterday, when he sprinted from approximately 20 riders back, but he may yet have sharp words again for his leadout men as he still started on the back foot. Today, however, he failed to display as much raw speed as yesterday, fighting his way up to second but not in as impressive a manner as yesterday.
While the Omega boys are surely going back to the drawing board to figure out how to nail their leadouts, Goss and the others must be quaking in fear of facing Sagan in Milan - San Remo. The uphill drag towards town was enough to put Francesco Chicci and several others into difficulty and may have played to Sagan's better climbing abilities, dulling his finishing speed less than his more thoroughbred rivals. The Cipressa and Poggio will only do more damage, so today may be a preview of what to expect on the Riviera on March 17.
- Peter Sagan, Canondale Pro Cycling
- Mark Cavendish, Omega Pharma - Quickstep
- André Greipel, Lotto - Belisol
- Gerald Ciolek, MTN - Qhubeka
- Matthew Harley Goss, ORICA - GreenEDGE