By finishing fifth in the stage 2 bunch sprint at Tirreno-Adriatico, Paddy Bevin moved into the blue leader's jersey. The New Zealander took the jersey off the shoulders of BMC Racing teammate Damiano Caruso and moved into the lead of a WorldTour race for the first time in his career.
In the opening team time trial, BMC delivered Caruso over the line first for the second year running to ensure the Italian would pull on the first leader's jersey of the race. On Stage 2 of the race, the finale was better suited to the capabilities of Bevin than Caruso. However, Bevin explained that it was only mid-stage that the potential to ride for blue became open. A late crash almost derailed the opportunity for the New Zealander, who was held up by the mass fall.
"It wasn't the plan coming into the stage for me to go for the leader's jersey, it came about as the stage went on," said 27-year-old Bevin. "We didn't have to do too much work, and my teammates geared me up to have a go at the sprint. We didn't have a guy to sprint, and they were keen to let me have a go in the final.
"I actually got caught behind the crash and I only just got back on and was able to have a good run through the bunch because it was pretty spread out. It's a weird feeling to take a jersey from a teammate but the plan for the week doesn't change."
A versatile rider capable of challenging in bunch sprints and punchy finishes, Bevin's 2015 season - in which he won stages of the Herald Sun Tour, Tour de Korea, and Tour de Taiwan and where he also wore the leader's jersey - earned him a ride with Cannondale-Drapac. Despite posting a number of top-10 results in WorldTour stage races with the American team, Bevin explained the finish in Follonica, won by Marcel Kittel, was his first real crack at a sprint in several years.
"I have had moments in the past when I have had a good sprint, and as an amateur, I sprinted, but in the last couple of years it hasn't really been a priority," Bevin said. "Today was probably the first time in my whole career that I have had a teammate come to me and say that I should have a go and that they knew I could sprint."
Set to make his Giro d'Italia debut in May, the result is a confidence boost for Bevin and confirmation for team management of the New Zealander's talent and capability.
"It's a special feeling coming into a new team when you have some well-established riders trying to motivate you and letting you show what you've got," he said.
Looking ahead to the remainder of the race and his stay in blue, Bevin was quick to state that his role in Tirreno-Adriatico is to support the GC aspirations of Rohan Dennis and the stage aims of Greg van Avermaet. The final-day time trial presents Bevin with the opportunity to again ride for a personal result, but he said it's all about the team.
"It's really nice to be leading the race. Like I said before, it's weird to take the jersey from a teammate and especially one who is here to lead the team," he said. "Of course, I don't mind babysitting it for a day, but as we head into tomorrow, nothing changes in terms of our plan."
Dislocated shoulder for Kung
Inside 10km of the finish, a touch of wheels in the peloton brought down a number of riders. BMC's Stefan Küng hit the deck and suffered cuts to his right knee, left shoulder and face. Küng eventually finished 7:47 down on Marcel Kittel and headed straight to the medical truck for assistance.
"There was a high sidewalk on the left-hand side, and that's where they went down. They took me out from the left side and then I had a lot of guys land on top of me, so I didn't really have a chance to avoid it," Küng said.
"At first, I was feeling really sore and felt pain like I have never experienced before in my shoulder, and I have already broken a few bones. So, we went to the x-ray truck, and as I moved my arm there, I heard a little click, and from then on it was better, so I had actually dislocated my shoulder. But now I am feeling okay, and I think I will start stage 3 tomorrow."
BMC team doctor Giovanni Ruffini further explained the diagnosis of Küng's injuries, adding the injuries are not serious enough to stop him from starting the 239km stage 3, the longest stage of Tirreno-Adriatico in 2018.
"Stefan was able to finish the race after crashing, but we immediately took him to get an x-ray, which fortunately showed that nothing was broken," Ruffini said. "Observation revealed that Stefan suffered a dislocation of his left shoulder and a few cuts, including one above his left eye, but nothing too serious.
"Now, he feels better, and normally he should start tomorrow's stage," Ruffini said. "However, we will continue to monitor him, and we will assess him tomorrow morning just in case anything changes overnight."
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