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The sprinters can expect another chance today. Will we see a tradtional mass sprint, or a confused one like yesterday, or will the Classics riders sieze their chance?
Welcome back to Cyclingnews' coverage of Tirreno-Adriatico. Today's 190 kilometers from Indicatore to Narni Scala should prove interesting – and unfortunately the weather is proving equally “interesting.
We practically have a repeat of yesterday, both weather-wise and race-wise. Today's break group features two names from yesterday, Cesare Benedetti (NetApp-Endura) and Garikoitz Bravo of Euskaltel. They have been joined today by Francesco Failli of Vini Fantini, and quickly built up a huge lead. The trio now has 7:45 on the field, with 70 km to go.
The weather is, if anything, worse than yesterday. Where's the “Don't Like” button?
There is one ranked climb today, which could be a nasty one. The km 120,1 Todi comes at km 120.1, and has a 1.5km climb with an average gradient of 12,2% , but going up to 20%. Still it is far enough away from the finish that it shouldn't have an effect.
We are happy to say that it is not raining at the finish and the road is drying out. Great news!
One rider was not at the start today, Bram Tankink of Blanco, and Lampre-Merida's Simone Stortini abandoned early on.
It was Benedetti who was the first to get away, the other two came up to join him.
And Benedetti again: he is now alone in the front as he starts up the day's climb. Let's see if we can find out where the other two are.
Our Steve Farrand is on the scene, and tells us that Benedetti has 12 seconds on the other two. He is apparently determined to get the mountain jersey which he was denied yesterday.
He does indeed hit the top first and get the points, and thus the KOM jersey.
The gap has come down to just over 4 minutes. But the peloton is struggling up the climb, which is really a rather nasty one.
Failli has now caught Benedetti, so there are two in front.
There are a number of comparisons of today's stage to a Classic. It starts out flat, and then turns rolling. As we said there is only one ranked climb, but the whole second half is anything but flat. Will it be too much for the Cavendishes and Greipels? Or does this stage have Peter Sagan's name written all over it?
The gap continues to tumble and is now at 3:15.
John Degenkolb of Argos-Shimano had expected to be right up there in the sprint yesterday, but it didn't work out. On his website, he said, “I have never ridden in a race where it rained so heavily as today. It was really unbelievable.”
As to the sprint: “In the finale we just couldn't find each other and so couldn't come to the front. If I had been in the first ten, I would have sprinted. But this way it was pointlesss.”
We just had not quite a crash. A RadioShack rider, we think it is Andy Schleck, had some problems with his bike. That created a small backup within the field.He is going again and moving back to the field.
The good news is that the rain looks to have let up, if not stopped.
The top ten in GC is still firmly in the hands of Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Movistar.
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 6:08:02
2 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:00:02
3 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:00:03
4 Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
5 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
6 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar Team 0:00:14
7 Alex Dowsett (GBr) Movistar Team
8 Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Movistar Team
9 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team
10 Eros Capecchi (Ita) Movistar Team
Bravo (what a great name!), who was in the break group, is now back in the peloton.
Well, bummer, now we hear that we can expect rain at the finish.
Goss leads the points ranking.
1 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge 12 pts
2 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 11
3 Manuel Belletti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 10
4 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) MTN-Qhubeka 8
5 Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida 7
6 Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Cannondale Pro Cycling 5
7 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 5
8 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ 5
9 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol 4
10 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 3
Only four riders have points in the mountain ranking. As you can see Bravo and Benedetti were tied on points, and Benedetti has picked up today's top points, so he wil be on top tomorrow.
1 Garikoitz Bravo Oiarbide (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 8 pts
2 Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Team NetApp-Endura 8
3 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 4
4 Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 2
Best young rider is still Michal Kwiatkowski of OPQS.
1 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 6:08:04
2 Alex Dowsett (GBr) Movistar Team 0:00:12
3 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:17
4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:00:20
5 Moreno Moser (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling
6 Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Sky Procycling 0:00:26
7 Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Sky Procycling
8 Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:00:36
9 Adriano Malori (Ita) Lampre-Merida
10 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:37
The gap has fallen to under two minutes, and is at 1:42.
Hard to believe, but that was Matt Goss' first win since last year's Giro d'Italia. Was he happy? You bet.
Sadly we see a few raindrops again.
Feilli is trying to stuff his rain cape in his back pocket, and having a hard time of it. So Benedetti reaches over and takes care of it for him. A nice show of good sportsmanship!
Goss may have been happy, but Cavendish most certainly was not. And he planned to let his teammates know about it.
With 50 km to go, Benedetti and Failli have just over a minute. The field doesn't want to catch then too soon.....
The peloton has picked up the speed, as they now are strung out rather than packed together.
Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) also didn't figure in the win yesterday, and he said that the rain and cold made his legs go “boom”.
Interestingly, Argos-Shimano is maintaining a presence at the front of the field.
The gap has been between the 57 second and 1:14 marks for about 15km now. As I said earlier, the field doesn't want to catch them too son.
Fabian Cancellara of RadioShack has dropped back amongst the team cars.
Paris-Nice is coming to a close. We will excuse you if want to pop over to our live report there for a few minutes.
We have been told that we have another abandon, Nick Nuyens of Garmin-Sharp. He was the last in GC.
Nuyens suffered a fractured hip in a crash in this race last year, and it was discovered in September that the bones hadn't grown back together. He is not at all optimistic about his chances for this year.
The gap is slightly higher again, at 1:25.
And the gap is now crawling up to 1:50, with less than 35 km to go. Perhaps they field will let these two tired riders stay away to the end?
It is dry where the riders are now, but it is raining at the finish.
Meanwhile, OPQS wakes up and picks up the tempo.
Benedetti and Failli are in the rain now.
OPQS really pulling hard now and the pace has finally picked up dramatically. The gap is dropping at last.
Who do we expect in the thick of things at the finish today? Cavendish and Greipel will surely want to make up for yesterday. But it looks like it might be something more for riders like Sagan or Degenkolb or Ciolek.
24 km to go and a gap of 50 seconds.
Failli take the points at the intermediate sprint.
That was it for Benedetti and Failli. They have been caught, with Cannondale leading the way.
The Paris-Nice stage is finished. You can check out the results here.
It doesn't appear to be raining at the moment but of course the road is wet.
Cannondale is really pushing the pace on this rolling course, hoping to drop the pure sprinters. And of course thereby to set things up for Peter Sagan.
A Sky rider takes off, it is Rigoberto Uran. He has been joined by another rider.+
Meanwhile, we have a crash, with four riders down. We can identify Henderson of Lotto.
Flecha has attacked! Cancellara gives chase. It is a bit hard to know who is where at the moment.
A Blanco rider has passed Flecha and taken ove the lead. The field is spread out single file on these wet roads.
The Blanco rider is Lars Boom. He has a nice lead over a largish group.
Boom has no water bottles. But if he is thirsty, he just needs to open his mouth and catch some rain.
Orica-GreenEdge leads the chase, as Boom disappears into the second tunnel and then passes under the flamme rouge.
Boom hits the finish line, wih the field only seconds behind him. They will now all set off on a 7.6km circuit course.
Boom is still ahead but keeps looking back as if to say, Come on already!
He is caught.
Cavendish is behind his team, in good position, with Saxo-Tinkoff now moving up.
With 4.5 km to go, a Vini Farini rider takes off, Matteo Rabotini.
Ww hear that South African champ Jay Thomson of MTN-Qjubeka crashed badly on the last descent. Hope he is ok.
Sergey Lagutin of Vacansoleil is the next to attack, with 2 km to go.The earlier escapee has been been caught.
Very dangerous here, wet roads, descents, and curves.
Lagutin still ahead -- will they catch him?
Yes. The sprinters go for it.
All big names there with Ciolek , Sagan, Greipel......
And it is indeed Peter Sagan who takes it, ahead of Greipel.
Second may have been Cavendish, with Greipel third and Ciolek fourth.
That was indeed the top four, and Goss took fifth.
The top ten on the stage:
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling
2 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
3 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol
4 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) MTN-Qhubeka
5 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
6 Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida
7 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp
8 Thor Hushovd (Nor) BMC Racing Team
9 Manuel Belletti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
10 Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano
Cavendish will keep the race lead, but we don't have the rest of the GC yet.
Sorry, we won't bring you the top ten GC here today but of course we will have it up on the site as soon as we can.
Join us again tomorrow for some serious climbing -- and hopefully some better weather!