American Tyler Farrar stepped up his preparations for the Milan-SanRemo classic by winning the second stage of Tirreno-Adriatico on Thursday and claiming the leader's blue jersey. After 202km from Marina di Carrera to Indicatore, the 26-year-old Garmin-Cervelo sprinter edged out Italian favourite Alessandro Petacchi in a bunch finish with Argentine Juan Jose Haedo finishing third just ahead of Australia's Mark Renshaw.
Farrar started the day seventh overall following Wednesday's team time-trial, won by Rabobank, but was able to count on the full support of his recently merged outfit, which includes Norway's reigning world champion Thor Hushovd.
"Today it was just amazing to win: racing with Thor Hushovd was quite new for me and I really enjoyed it," said Farrar. "Two years ago, right at the Tirreno-Adriatico, I achieved my first important victory and today the whole team worked for me. I must say thanks to all my team-mates."
Along with Paris-Nice in France, the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race is considered a crucial stepping stone for anyone looking to podium in the first one-day classic of the season, Milano-SanRemo, in nine days' time. Britain's Mark Cavendish, a 15-time stage winner on the Tour de France and the 2009 winner of Milan Sanremo, dropped off the pace on the climb of the Poggio alla Croce and struggled to follow the wheel of habitual lead-out man Renshaw.
That slip will not have gone unnoticed by Garmin, who, after merging with Cervelo, have what appears to be a cycling super-team. Farrar in any case hopes they will be a force to be reckoned with come March 19. "The team will have three wild cards: Thor Hushovd, Heinrich Haussler and me," added Farrar. "The final result depends on our good form and training. The best prepared man will be the captain on the occasion."
Overnight leader Lars Boom dropped to third behind team-mate Thomas Leezer, both two seconds behind the American. German Andre Greipel, one of several top sprinters expected to challenge the domination of Cavendish this season, pulled out of the race due to injuries he picked up in a crash on Wednesday's opening stage.