Tyler Farrar won the third stage of Italy's Tirreno-Adriatico Friday in a sprint finish over the world's best sprinters. The American of Garmin-Slipstream over-powered Mark Cavendish (Columbia-Highroad), Enrico Rossi (Ceramica Flaminia-Bossini Docce) and Robbie McEwen (Katusha) at the end of a 166-kilometre stage from Fucecchio to Santa Croce sull'Arno.
"Cavendish is the best sprinter in the world; everyone wants to beat him," said Farrar. "My condition is good and I have a very strong team here. Dean and the others did a huge amount of work for me. ... It's my most important win to date."
Farrar had the confidence gained racing with top-level teams, like Garmin and Cofidis, for the past several years, not to mention several important wins: a Tour du Poitou stage (2008), GP Correios de Portugal stage (2007) and Tour de l'Avenir stages (2005 & 2004).
"I had a chance to battle these guys in the Tour of California. Today is huge relief, now I would like to go for the Classics in Belgium," said Farrar.
His confidence will be that much higher for Belgium, where he lives, thanks to beating not only Cavendish and McEwen, but also Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam), Alessandro Petacchi (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini) and Daniele Bennati (Liquigas).
"I went at 300 metres," said Petacchi, who had Cavendish and then Farrar on his wheel. "I think Cavendish suffered from the speed and maybe I paid a little bit from yesterday's effort.
"I though Cavendish was going to get it, but then this Farrar worked around him."
Garmin escape and finale
Today was the last chance for the sprinters until the race's final stage; the next three stages are tough: two mountain stages and one time trial. However, three riders went clear early in the 166-kilometres stage from Fucecchio, Andrea Tafi's hometown, to Santa Croce sull'Arno.
Farrar's teammate William Frischkorn, Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R La Mondiale) and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil) gained a maximum of 5:30 on the peloton. Julien El Farès' Cofidis team cut the gap down to about half by kilometre 115.
The trio had 2:27 over the chase with 42.6 kilometres left to race, or two circuits of Santa Croce sull'Arno. Westra, Frischkorn and Krivtsov, respectively, went over the Poggio Adorno climb with 1:48 ahead of Ermanno Capelli (Fuji-Servetto), slightly off the front of the gruppo. The Italian was in the escape yesterday and took the mountains jersey today.
With one circuit to race, 21.3km, the three men had 1:19 over the chase led by Lampre. Acqua & Sapone and AG2R helped with the pace to bring the gap down to near 30 seconds at 17 kilometres to race. At the same time, sprinter Danilo Napolitano (Katusha) flatted and had to mount a chase back.
The three escapees' day was finished with 9.5 kilometres left to race. The sprinters' teams positioned for the sprint with five kilometres of dead-flat roads to the finish line.
Columbia, for Cavendish, and Cervélo, for Hushovd, looked the strongest in the run-in to the finish. Farrar had Garmin teammates Michael Friedman and Julian Dean muscle him up with the top guns.
Norwegian Hushovd shouted and yelled to get his Cervélo men to drive the pace at a ferocious rate. They did a wonderful job and took over from the two Quick Step men for the start of the final kilometre.
Behind Hushovd was Boonen, Petacchi, Cavendish and eventual, surprise winner Farrar. Petacchi shot to the left to start his sprint at 300 metres. He faded as Cavendish and then Farrar came round on the left, respectively. The American nipped the Brit on the line. Italy's Rossi, slightly back, claimed third.
"I am doing well here in Tirreno," said Rossi to Rai. "I was stuck a little behind today, but I worked up well and I am happy with my place."
Montelupone on the horizon
Team Cofidis' Julien El Farès keeps the race leader's blue jersey ahead of Petacchi on the eve of Montelupone. The Frenchman took the lead thanks to his win in stage one on Wednesday.
The overall classification should change tomorrow when the riders travel to the regions of Umbria and then Le Marche. The Montelupone climb comes twice in the final 14 kilometres, with the second ascent being the finish. It has sections of 21% gradient, similar to the Mur de Huy of Flèche Wallonne.