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van Avermaet Denies Sagan/Stybar

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Mar 13, 2015 – Belgian Greg van Avermaet warmed up for the upcoming classics season with a season-opening victory on the third stage of Tirreno-Adriatico on Friday after a thrilling uphill finish that handed him the overall leader’s jersey.

AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

Van Avermaet crossed the finish line half a bike length ahead of former Tour de France green jersey champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia, with Czech Zdenek Stybar – who won the Strade Bianche Italian semi-classic last week — finishing third after the 203 km ride from Cascina to Arezzo.

A tough finishing climb placed in the final kilometer to the line made for some intense racing that saw classics specialists and sprinters alike getting to the fore of the race. Fabian Cancellara, Peter Sagan, Zdeněk Štybar and several other stage classics contenders hit the narrow uphill roads as they approached the finish line.

One-day classics rivals Fabian Cancellara and Filippo Pozzato finished fourth and fifth respectively as Van Avermaet – a former winner of Paris-Tours – underlined his finishing form for the beginning of the classics season. The 29-year-old Belgian, who rides for BMC, took the overall race lead from Adriano Malori to lead Sagan by two seconds in the general classification with Italian Malori dropping to third at 8secs adrift.

“I’m very happy to have won because I’ve had too many second places,” said Van Avermaet at the finish line. “This was a perfect finish for me but the team did an excellent job to get me in position.”

A five-man breakaway had formed early in the stage but their bid to make it all the way ended with 20km remaining as the Tinkoff-Saxo team of defending race champion Alberto Contador set a furious pace at the front of the peloton. BMC puts numbers up near the front in the closing kilometres and when the peloton hit the punchy final ascent on the Via Ricasoli, Van Avermaet emerged from the pack and went on to keep his rivals at bay over the closing 200 metres.

Van Avermaet now leads Slovakian Sagan by two seconds in the race’s overall standings with overnight leader Adriano Malori dropping to third overall after the 203 km ride from Cascina to Arezzo.

This weekend, the spotlight is likely to shine on the real victory contenders when stage four takes the peloton over 218km from Arezzo to Castelraimondo via three climbs in the final 80 km, including the Crispiero, whose summit is just 6km from the finish line. But the real decider for the overall title could be on stage five, a 194km trek beginning in Esanatoglia and culminating with a 16km hike to the summit of Monte Terminillo.

Contador this year will attempt to become the first cyclist since deceased Italian Marco Pantani to win the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in the same year and this weekend should indicate how far the Spaniard’s preparations have progressed.

Watch the final kilometer here

Results Stage 3

1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC 4hr 58min 17sec
2. Zdenek Stybar (CZE) same time
3. Peter Sagan (SVK) s.t.
4. Filippo Pozzato (ITA) s.t.
5. Fabian Cancellara (SUI) s.t.
6. Simon Geschke (GER) s.t.
7. Paul Mertens (GER) s.t.
8. Andriy Grivko (UKR) s.t.
9. Rigoberto Uran (COL) s.t.
10. Wouter Poels (NED) s.t.

General classification

1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC 8hr 34min 31sec
2. Peter Sagan (SVK) at 02s
3. Adriano Malori (ITA) 8
4. Fabian Cancellara (SUI) 9
5. Matthias Brandle (AUT) 10
6. Ramunas Navardauskas (LTU) 13
7. Steven Cummings (GBR) 14
8. Jonathan Castroviejo (ESP) 16
9. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) s.t.
10. Andriy Grivko (UKR) 17