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Tirreno-Adriatico 2014: Stage 6

Live coverage of stage 6 of Tirreno-Adriatico, 189 kilometres from Bucchianico to Porto Sant'Elpidio.

85km remaining from 189km

As we pick up the action with 85 kilometres still to race, a four-man group featuring Peter Kennaugh (Sky), Steve Morabito (BMC), Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp) and Vincent Jerome (Europcar) holds a three-minute lead over the peloton.

The four leaders once the flag was dropped this morning, shortly after leaving Bucchianico, a hilltop town near Chieti. Indeed, the first climb of the day was in Chieti itself, after just 6 kilometres, and Kennaugh led over the summit.

85km remaining from 189km

As we pick up the action with 85 kilometres still to race, a four-man group featuring Peter Kennaugh (Sky), Steve Morabito (BMC), Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp) and Cesare Benedetti (NetApp-Endura) holds a three-minute lead over the peloton.

The four leaders went clear once the flag was dropped this morning, shortly after leaving Bucchianico, a hilltop town near Chieti. Indeed, the first climb of the day was in Chieti itself, after just 6 kilometres, and Kennaugh led over the summit.

Vincent Jerome (Europcar) was initially part of the early break, but the Frenchman was distanced on that first climb of the day, which was precisely where Benedetti managed to bridge across.

The Tinkoff-Saxo team of race leader Alberto Contador was controlling affairs at the head of the peloton, but understandably happy to give the break its head, given that the highest man on the overall standings, Steve Morabito, is almost 20 minutes off Alberto Contador's blue jersey.

75km remaining from 189km

The break's advantage reached a maximum of 5:30 after 45 kilometres, before the pace finally began to pick up in the main peloton. The gap dropped to three minutes at the midway point but has crept back up in the last 15 kilometres or so, and now stands at 4:10.

Chris Horner, who was lying in 11th overall, is a non-starter today. His Lampre-Merida team issued a statement this morning saying that he is suffering from tendinitis in his left Achilles tendon and that the team was "going to evaluate the best path to recovery." Horner's 2013 campaign was blighted by a knee injury and he didn't race from March until August, though the 42-year-old returned, of course, in time to land a very surprising Vuelta a Espana victory indeed.

There were two other non-starters on today's stage: Jens Mouris (Orica-GreenEdge) and Jesse Sergent (Trek Factory). Sergent is reported to be suffering from an infected ingrown toe nail.

Alberto Contador wears the blue jersey of race leader this afternoon, and with a lead of 2:08 over Nairo Quintana, it's hard to imagine that the Spaniard will relinquish his lead between now and the finish in San Benedetto del Tronto tomorrow afternoon. The overall standings looked like this as the peloton rolled out this morning:

1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 21:01:30
2 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 0:02:08
3 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:02:15
4 Julian David Arredondo Moreno (Col) Trek Factory Racing 0:02:39
5 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:40
6 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Team Sky 0:02:50
7 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:02:51
8 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:56
9 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Team Katusha 0:02:58
10 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Trek Factory Racing 0:03:06

 

The name Porto Sant’Elpidio will resonate with anyone who raced Tirreno-Adriatico last year, but mercifully for the peloton, this afternoon RCS has opted not to send them up the 27% “wall” which wreaked such havoc in the finale in 2013. Sant’Elpidio a Mare is the only categorised climb in the finale, with a more manageable maximum slope of 9% and an average gradient of 5.6% over its 2.7 kilometres.

Twelve months ago, Vincenzo Nibali availed of the muro in the finale of this stage to divest Chris Froome of the blue jersey on a day that saw Peter Sagan claim stage victory in the rain. In 2014, the muro came a day earlier, at Guardiagrele, and by the time Alberto Contador reached it, he had already put a down payment on overall victory by attacking on the Passo Lanciano.

52km remaining from 189km

The pace is beginning to ratchet up in the peloton as the race approaches Porto Sant'Elpidio for the first time. Kennaugh, Bauer, Benedetti and Morabito's lead is now down to 2:44.

45km remaining from 189km

The four leaders have turned inland from the Adriatic coast and are riding towards the foot of the day's final categorised climb.

The Cannondale team of Peter Sagan are winding up the pace on the front end of the peloton and a number of sprinters are suffering towards the back of the bunch, including Sam Bennett (NetApp-Endura). There are reports reaching us, too, that Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) was struggling off the back, hence Cannondale's forcing on this incline.

42km remaining from 189km

The television cameras drop back and confirm the reports - Marcel Kittel has been dropped and has four teammates with  him, desperately trying to latch back on.

41km remaining from 189km

There are shades of Albi at last year's Tour de France about this performance from Cannondale. The men in green are setting a fierce pace on the climb in a bid to distance the pure sprinters and set things up for Sagan. Kittel is now 50 seconds off the pace.

40km remaining from 189km

Approaching the summit of the Sant'Elpidio climb, the four leaders have a gap of 1:36 over the peloton, while the Kittel group is 2:24 down.

38km remaining from 189km

Peter Kennaugh led the four escapees over the climb, and is now trying to breathe some life into their move by putting in a long, long turn on the descent. The gap is now 1:24.

The Kittel group has picked up a few stragglers, but with no added impetus. The German is now 1:20 down on the Cannondale-led bunch.

Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) are still in the main peloton, incidentally, but Cannondale and Sagan will be hoping that some of the venom has been drawn from their legs by the relentless pace-setting on the climb.

34km remaining from 189km

Cannondale's sudden injection of pace has all but doomed the efforts of the four escapees, whose lead has been cut to 1:05 with 34 kilometres remaining.

Jack Bauer has been impressive in this breakaway, and he continues to battle gamely in spite of the Cannondale pursuit behind.

Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol), who spent much of yesterday off the front, has now been sent to the front to help out with the pace-making in support his leader Andre Greipel. It seems all but impossible for Kittel to regain contact at this point.

29km remaining from 189km

Kittel's teammates have helped to stablise the gap at a minute, but Lotto-Belisol's decision to mass its riders up front alongside Cannondale has surely doomed his fightback.

28km remaining from 189km

The break's lead drops underneath the one-minute point as they approach the finish line in Porto Sant'Elpidio for the first time. A bunch sprint seems all but inevitable.

Lotto-Belisol lead the bunch through the finish line 41 seconds down on the escapees. Sagan's Cannondale guard are still on duty too, and there are also some Omega Pharma-QuickStep jerseys beginning to move up in support of Mark Cavendish.

25km remaining from 189km

The unity of the break suddenly fractures as the lead drops to 30 seconds. Jack Bauer kicks off the attacking and opens a small gap over his erstwhile companions.

Cannondale have taken up the reins at the head of the peloton again. The Kittel group, meanwhile, is continuing to pick up bodies, and has managed to peg its deficit back to 45 seconds or so.

22km remaining from 189km

Former Giro d'Italia stage winner Bart De Clerq (Montevergine, 2011) is on the front for Lotto Belisol, while 25 seconds up the road, there are just three riders left in the break - Jack Bauer, Peter Kennaugh and Steve Morabito.

21km remaining from 189km

The Kittel group is 50 seconds off the front of the bunch and has just caught up to the convoy behind the peloton.

19km remaining from 189km

Of the three men out in front, Jack Bauer has been the most generous with his efforts in the last five kilometres or so, but the bunch is now within touching distance of the break.

NetApp's Sam Bennett, meanwhile, appears to be back in the Marcel Kittel group, which is a shade over 40 seconds off the bunch.

Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel are resolutely part of the main peloton, and their Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Lotto-Belisol teams are both contributing at the front.

15km remaining from 189km

Bauer, Kennaugh and Morabito enter the final 15 kilometres with 15 seconds still in hand on the peloton, which is led by in turn by Cannondale, Lotto and QuickStep.

13km remaining from 189km

Kennaugh sits up as the break passes through the finish line for the penultimate time and takes the bell. Bauer and Morabito are persisting for now, but they surely won't last long.

13km remaining from 189km

This has been a huge effort from the Kittel group, which has swept through the finish line just 33 seconds down on the main peloton.

With impeccable timing, host broadcaster RAI has lost live pictures from the race, and as Marcel Kittel gamely tries to battle back on to the main peloton, we are instead being treated to pictures of a dog awaiting the finish in Porto Sant'Elpidio.

Morabito and Bauer have been caught by the bunch, which leads the Kittel group by 23 seconds, while RAI bizarrely show us images of children in a playground near the finish line.

7km remaining from 189km

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) launches an attack on a short uphill section. Kittel is 33 seconds down on the bunch. RAI has now shown us every dog on a leash on the Adriatic coast.

We've also seen every swing-set and woman in sunglasses in Porto Sant'Elpidio, but precious little of the final lap of the finishing circuit.

3km remaining from 189km

And we're back just in time to see Philippe Gilbert's (unseen and thus presumably for the ages) solo attack shut down by the main peloton. No sign of Marcel Kittel, but QuickStep and Lotto are now on the front.

2km remaining from 189km

The men in black of QuickStep seize control, with Michal Kwiatkowski on the front.

2km remaining from 189km

This is the last big work-out for the sprint trains before Milan-San Remo, of course. QuickStep have been pitch perfect for Cavendish thus far...

1km remaining from 189km

A few Lottoe riders went down in a crash and there are six riders clear in front, mainly QuickStep...

1km remaining from 189km

Cavendish is in fourth wheel under the red kite in a group slightly off the front.

After the confusion, the peloton closes the gap to that small Cavendish group but QuickStep remain in complete control...

Mark Renshaw swings over for Alessandro Petacchi, who winds it up for Cavendish...

And Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) claims victory by the proverbial street.

Petacchi and Cavendish opened a huge gap on the rest even before Cavendish came off his wheel. Once Cavendish flashed past, Petacchi sat up to celebrate Cavendish's win - and then looked around and started sprinting again to help himself to second place on the stage. Peter Sagan came through for third.

Cavendish and his QuickStep lead-out train haven't always fired this season, but they were mightily impressive this afternoon. They were dominant in the final five kilometres and Cavendish grabs a win that will slash his odds for Milan-San Remo next Sunday, considering that he dealt with the Cannondale forcing on the climbs.

That Lotto crash also effectively eliminated Andre Greipel from contention, along with the already dropped Marcel Kittel. "I never look at what he's doing and what everyone else is doing," Cavendish says of Kittel, before enquiring of Greipel. "It would have been nice to sprint againt Kittel and Greipel."

Result:

1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 4:16:15
2 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale
4 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ.fr
5 Tony Hurel (Fra) Team Europcar
6 Robert Wagner (Ger) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
7 Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN - Qhubeka
8 Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) Team NetApp - Endura
9 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
10 Davide Appollonio (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale

The general classification remains unchanged, with Alberto Contador maintaining his healthy lead over Nairo Quintana ahead of tomorrow's short time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto.

General classification

1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo
2 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 0:02:08
3 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:02:15
4 Julian David Arredondo Moreno (Col) Trek Factory Racing 0:02:39
5 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:40
6 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Team Sky 0:02:50
7 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:02:51
8 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:56
9 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Team Katusha 0:02:58
10 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Trek Factory Racing 0:03:06

Thanks for joining our live coverage of Tirreno-Adriatico this afternoon. We'll be back with more tomorrow from San Benedetto del Tronto, but before then, you can catch a full report, results and pictures from today's stage here, as well as all the news and reaction from Porto Sant'Elpidio.

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