Cavendish wins Tirreno sprint on eve of Sanremo

Mark Cavendish won the final stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico Tuesday in San Benedetto del Tronto in a bunch sprint over Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream) and Baden Cooke (Vacansoleil). The 169-kilometre stage was the Briton's fifth win of the season and bodes well for the Milano-Sanremo one-day Classic in four days.

"The other day I thought it would be my day, but I was beaten on the line," said Cavendish. "I had a point to prove today. My team kept the break's gap small and then I had the perfect lead out."

Michele Scarponi (Diquigiovanni-Androni) held on to his gap over Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) to win the race's overall classification. The Italian from Jesi took over the lead yesterday when he won the mountain stage to Camerino.

"I hoped I could pull this off at the start of the race," said Scarponi. "I did a great time trial and had a great stage win yesterday that put me in place for the overall win.

"I am finally past all the troubles; a lot of thanks to the team and everyone else."

Garzelli, second to Scarponi in yesterday's Camerino stage, finished 25 seconds back in the overall.

"It is a great result to get on the podium, even if leaves a little bit of a bitter taste in my mouth."

Three go long

Three riders tried their luck on Le Marche's seaside roads. Ten kilometres into the stage Russian Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) and Belgians Wim De Vocht (Vacansoleil) and Olivier Kaisen (Silence-Lotto) attacked and move clear of the main gruppo of race leader Scarponi.

Over the course marked with the sole categorised climb of Montalto delle Marche, the three worked to build a gap of seven minutes over the peloton. They lost two minutes by the start of the second finishing circuit of 10 kilometres.

The efforts of teams LPR (for Alessandro Petacchi) and Columbia (Cavendish) brought the gap down to 1:40 by 25 kilometres remaining. Ignatiev felt the heat of the sprinters' teams behind and flew the coop at 22 kilometres to go. Kaisen joined with him by the start of the final two laps, where the duo had 1:32.

They had 57 seconds at the start of the final circuit. Ignatiev did not like the situation; he sized up his Belgian partner and launched solo at eight kilometres to go.

The Russian Olympic Champion held 24 seconds at 5km to go and 15 seconds at 3km. His day was over 167 kilometres after it started, right past the two-kilometre to go marker.

George Hincapie led out for teammate Cavendish with the same force that he led Thomas Lövkvist up the Montelupone climb two days ago. Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) overtook Cavendish in the final 200 metres on the right hand side of the road.

The rider from Isle of Man responded immediately to the Italian. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream) kept locked to Cavendish's wheel like in stage three, but Cavendish kept the revs high to get his first-ever win in Tirreno-Adriatico.

Katusha was unable to get a win in the stage race despite the efforts of Ignatiev and Robbie McEwen. Pozzato launched a solo and brief move before the final kilometre. "I tried for McEwen today. I tried to upset the group. I am sorry he could not win, but we tried," said Pozzato.

"I started and hoped to have Robbie on my wheel, but I think he lost it in the last kilometre," Danilo Napolitano confirmed.

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