In 2014 Matteo Pelucchi (IAM Cycling) was the surprise winner of stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico to Cascina. This year Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) took the glory ahead of Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18), confirming he is also one of the sprinters of the future.
The likeable Flandrian has now won seven races but this was his first ever WorldTour success and only his third in the Belgian national champion's jersey, which he won last summer.
"For me this win is really important, it's probably the biggest in my career," he said in the post-race press conference in Cascina. "The Belgian championships was big but this is at a much higher level I'm happy to win in the jersey too. It's great to take a victory so soon in the season and in a WorldTour race too."
"I feel a little stronger every year, I'm progressing by small steps. I hope I can continue with that, and I hope to win more in the future. I felt good since last week, I felt my best shape was coning. Yesterday my prologue was good and believed I could do a good results but winning against these sprinters was not the plan in the morning. I wanted to do well but this is the best possible result."
Debusschere was relieved to avoid the late crash that took out Elia Viviani (Team Sky), Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) and Luka Mezgec (Giant-Alpecin) and focused on sprinting to the finish line.
"I heard the crash or riders hitting each other behind me, so when I started sprint I thought I had a chance of winning but I also thought that Cavendish or Viviani were on my wheel," he admitted. "But I knew that if I could hold the speed then it’s hard to pass when it’s above 70km/h. I thought one or two guys could pass me but not more."
Debusschere has been a professional since 2011 but is still only 25. He intends to focus on sprinting for now but is also eyeing success in the Classics after completing his sprint apprenticeship under Andre Greipel’s wing.
"I'm focusing on the sprints right now because I'm going well in them like today, but the Classics are never out of my mind and I hope one day to stay with the best riders and hope my sprint will help me beat some guys. For now though, I'm going to focus on sprinting and target stages in stage races," he explained.
"We have Greipel at Lotto Soudal and he's the fastest. When he's in the sprint, there's no problem for me to work for him. When he's not there, I get my chances. It was planned I'd come here and André would do Paris-Nice. I think me and (teammate) Kris Boeckmans are on same level in the sprints but André is the sprinter leader of the team. I've learnt everything about position from André and Marcel Sieberg. They taught me how to study the corners and where the wind is coming from. I've learnt a lot thanks to them."