Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) claimed stage 2 of the Tirreno-Adriatico in a frantic sprint into Indicatore. The Orica-GreenEdge sprinter edged out Manuel Belletti (AG2R La Mondiale) and Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) for his first win since stage 3 of last year’s Giro d’Italia.
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and sprint rival Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) were forced to settle for the minor places, 5th and 7th respectively, while the Brit managed to retain his overall lead after the 232km stage.
Heavy rain played havoc during the stage but having been earmarked as the first battle royale between the world’s best sprinters there was little let up after an early break was caught inside the final 30 kilometres.
Despite Greipel and Cavendish looking for early bragging rights in their first duel of the 2013 season it was Peter Sagan’s Cannondale team who marshalled the peloton as they approached the final 10 kilometres. Sky and MTN-Qhubeka joined the fore but with three kilometres to go the peloton began to stretch, causing a number of gaps.
Cavendish briefly looked out of the picture but hard work from Niki Terpstra was enough for the Manxman to remain in contention.
Greipel’s Lotto Belisol squad took over at the front of the peloton when Cannondale began to wilt but despite numerical superiority, it was Goss who proved the freshest on the day.
Rainy day in the saddle
At the start in San Vincenzo the riders looked up at the grey skies as they signed on, hoping the rain would hold off. However their pockets were packed with gloves and capes, ready for a long day in the saddle and a long day in the rain.
The 232k stage started on time at 10:30 and headed south towards Piombino and Follonica before heading inland into the Tuscan hills. The rain began after just 20 minutes, with riders huddling together as if to stay warm together.
The early break of the day eventually formed on the approach to the long, rolling climb to Massa Marittima, with Kevin Hulsmans (Fantini Vini-Selle Italia), Cesare Benedetti (NetApp-Endura) and Garikoitz Bravo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) jumping away together after 29km. The peloton let them go and the trio quickly opened a lead of seven minutes, with Omega Pharma-Quick Step setting the tempo behind.
The stage passed below Siena and through the Chianti hills but the riders had little chance to enjoy the views across the vineyards due to the low clouds and rain. Up front Bravo and Benedetti were first and second on the first climb of the stage, then swapping placing on the second climb. As Bravo and Benedetti tied on KOM points, the day's general classification would be the tie breaker deciding who leads the category, with the nod ultimately going to the Euskaltel-Euskadi Spaniard.
Inside the final 100km of the race, the gap to the leading trio began to fall as the peloton upped the pace. Omega Pharma-Quick Step was doing their part but other teams also chipped in to help the chase and bring the gap down to a manageable four minutes.
The riders faced five laps of a finishing circuit around Indicatore and Arezzo, with the break holding a 3:15 gap at the first passage, at 62km to go. Bravo decided to sit up before the first passage but Benedetti and Hulsmans pressed on in search of glory and some television time for their sponsors.
The peloton was happy to let them hang out front as the laps ticked down and the rain came down even more, knowing the stage distance and the acceleration from the sprinters' teams would see them caught.
The gap was just a minute with 38km to go and the two were eventually caught with 30km remaining. Sep Vanmarcke (Blanco) made a solo attack, gaining little breathing room, and once he was brought back into the peloton at 17km to go it was time for a high-speed, nerve-wracking sprint finale in the rain.
|1||Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge||5:48:41|
|2||Manuel Belletti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 1 - Cell 2|
|3||Gerald Ciolek (Ger) MTN-Qhubeka||Row 2 - Cell 2|
|4||Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|5||Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|6||Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|7||André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|8||Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN-Qhubeka||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|9||Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling||Row 8 - Cell 2|
|10||Davide Appollonio (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 9 - Cell 2|
|11||Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) RadioShack Leopard||Row 10 - Cell 2|
|12||Boy van Poppel (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||Row 11 - Cell 2|
|13||Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp||Row 12 - Cell 2|
|14||John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano||Row 13 - Cell 2|
|15||Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge||Row 14 - Cell 2|
|16||Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 15 - Cell 2|
|17||Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team||Row 16 - Cell 2|
|18||Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 17 - Cell 2|
|19||Greg Henderson (NZl) Lotto Belisol||Row 18 - Cell 2|
|20||Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia||Row 19 - Cell 2|
|21||Gert Steegmans (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||Row 20 - Cell 2|
|22||Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Belisol||Row 21 - Cell 2|
|23||Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard||Row 22 - Cell 2|
|24||Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Team Argos-Shimano|