Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage 2 of the 2016 Tirreno-Adriatico - a long day with a punchy parcours designed by Paolo Bettini.
- Preview: Sagan and Valverde favourites for Tirreno-Adriatico's tough stage 2
- Stage 1 report: World champions BMC Racing win team time trial
- Video: Five riders to watch
- Tirreno-Adriatico race home
Hello, good afternoon, welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage 2 of the 2016 Tirreno-Adriatico.
It's a 207km trip down Italy's west coast today, from Camaiore to Pomarance and it's one for the puncheurs with 2,000m of vertical gain in the last 50km and a steep climb just shy of the finish.
Here's the profile of today's stage:
As we pick up the action with around 115km remaining, there are six riders in a breakaway which has a lead of 5 minutes 30 seconds over the peloton.
The escapees are: Giorgio Cecchinel (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Simone Andreetta (Bardiani-CSF), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18), Luis Mas Bonet (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Nikolay Mihaylov (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), and Federico Zurlo (Lampre-Merida).
There has been a brief halt to proceedings as the race had to be paused at a level crossing while a train went past. No desperate sneaking through the barriers à la Paris-Roubaix here... In fact, Fabian Cancellara looks pretty pleased with this nice little mid-race pause, as shown in this picture from Katusha press officer Philippe Maertens.
100km to go and it's BMC on the front of the bunch, protecting the leader's jersey on the shoulders of Daniel Oss. You can remind yourself how the Italian took the race lead on the opening-day team time trial with our stage 1 report.
Today's stage was designed with input from none other than Paolo Bettini and, surprise surprise, it's a parcours the Italian himself would have thrived on. “Thinking back on it, I’ve been a bit of a bastard…” was his take on it.
You can read Bettini's thoughts, along with a detailed description of what to expect in the tough second half of the route, in our stage preview.
The breakaway's lead grows out again towards the seven-minute mark.
Rigoberto Urán's general classification hopes went out the window when Cannondale crashed in the TTT yesterday. See the link below for more on the crash and the team's revised goals for this week.
The riders have been on the road for three hours and in that time they've averaged a shade under 41km/h.
The gap between the break and the bunch falls under 6 minutes. That should be really eaten into on the climb to Pian di Forno - the first real test of today's stage.
I'm following the action in Italy but there's also WorldTour racing happening as we speak over in France. My colleague Sadhbh O'Shea is bringing live coverage of stage 4 of Paris-Nice, which you can find by clicking here. I won't be (very) offended. Best, though, to keep us both open and keep up to date on both races.
Just under 65km to go now and the break's lead has fallen to five minutes. BMC, as ever, keeping things ticking over on the front.
The bunch are heading up the steeper gradients of the Pian di Forno climb. Taylor Phinney (BMC) is simply tapping it out on the front at the moment, no action just yet although many at the back of the bunch are having to get out of the saddle.
There's an intermediate sprint positioned just shy of the summit of this climb, at Monterotondo Marittimo. Simone Andreetta skips away to take maximum points, closely followed by Luis Mas.
Now for the King of the Mountains points for the top of this climb, and it's Zurlo who strikes out takes it. The Lampre rider looks pretty pleased with himself as he clenches his fist and waits for his fellow breakaway companions to rejoin.
Burl's now the virtual leader of the mountains classification, but there are more points on offer on the final climb of today's stage.
Zurlo is now the virtual leader of the mountains classification, but there are more points on offer on the final climb of today's stage.
The escapees are bombing downhill now in their aero tucks, but it won't be long before the road kicks up again, with another intermediate sprint at Castelnuovo Val di Cecina.
We're hearing that Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) lost contact with the peloton towards the top of the Pian di Forno.
The gap is ever-falling now and currently stands at 3:30 on the approach to the second intermediate sprint.
Andreetta once again springs away to take maximum sprint points and extend his virtual lead in that classification.
Castelnuovo Val di Cecina, incidentally, is where tomorrow's stage will start.
It's mostly downhill now on the approach to the final climb but there is some rolling terrain with the gradients kicking up in parts. Nothing to shake the race up but it will all count come the finale.
Puncture for GC contender Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo). He gets a quick change and a draft from the team car and shouldn't have too much trouble getting back on.
Less than 2:30 now for our six leaders as the pace picks up in the bunch.
35km remaining from 207km
The breakaway riders reach Pomarance for the first time today with a lead of just over two minutes.
We're now in the so-called Valle del Diavolo - Devil's Valley - which the tourist brochures like to claim provided some of the inspiration for the lay-out of Dante's Inferno.
BMC, as they have been all day, are on the front of the bunch and really driving things through the town of Pomarance. Vincenzo Nibali's Astana men are not far behind them.
“The last 25 kilometres are very technical,” wrote Paolo Bettini, who helped design this stage, in Gazzetta dello Sport. “And the final 12 kilometres are the decisive ones – the race goes into the countryside and the roads are narrow and twisting, they remind you of Amstel Gold Race. That’s a race I never won and where there’s barely a metre of flat.”
Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) dangles off the back of the bunch as things string out on a section of downhill.
Movistar move up alongside BMC now. They have a real favourite for the stage win today in Alejandro Valverde.
20km remaining from 207km
Into the final 20km we go and it's Jempy Drucker currently emptying himself for BMC and the gap to the break is dropping down towards the one-minute mark.
There are time bonuses of 10, 6, and 4 seconds for the top three on today's stage. Oss and his fellow BMC teammates find themselves two seconds ahead of Etixx-QuickStep riders, nine ahead of FDJ, and 11 over Tinkoff as it stands.
45 seconds is the new time that gets chalked onto the moto's mini blackboard. Not long left for these breakaway riders now.
And on that note, Andreetta takes a flyer. It's a short-lived dig as the others catch up with him, but a futile attempt to delay the inevitable.
Giorgio Cecchinel is the first to give up the ghost and drops back to the peloton. The other five plough on for now with a lead of just over 10 seconds.
Team Sky now hit the front of the bunch for the first time today. They have Michal Kwiatkowski who could no doubt do something on this sort of finish.
We're nearing the all-important final climb now, the Cerreto – or, as Bettini jokingly labels it, the “Cerretemberg”. The gradient stiffens and relaxes irregularly on the road leading up to the climb proper, and the toughest section begins with four kilometres remaining as the slopes pitch up to 16%. After a brief respite, the road tilts upwards again, and the riders will face 350 metres at 17% before the summit.
Remember, the climb peaks at three kilometres from the finish. From there it's rolling and twisty ahead of a slightly uphill drag to the line.
9km remaining from 207km
Andreetta, mas, and Benedetti string this out for as long as possible but they are caught just as we start the climb. Gruppo Compatto with just over 9km to go.
Crash. Losada and Haller of Katusha crash into each other and they're not back up quickly.
The bunch is thinning out rapidly here under the pacemaking of Salvatore Puccio.
Last 6km. Here's how they look.
Attack from Giovanni Visconti (Movistar)!
Visconti is reeled in, AG2R on the front now, Peter Kennaugh (Sky) second wheel.
Tinkoff move up now, while Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) is well-positioned and a prime candidate for the stage win.
4km remaining from 207km
Janse Van REsburg hits the front and Daniele Bennati leans over and bumps shoulders, marking his territory.
Mirko Selvaggi (Androni) attacks. The Italian rider takes off and immediately gets a gap.
Onto the steep section with a horrible hairpin turn. Kennaugh turns his gear over and begins to reel in the escapee.
Diego Ulissi now attacks! The Italian loves these types of parcours.
Ulissi caught, now Zdenek Sybar goes
This lead group is massively reduced. Sagan is still in there.
2km remaining from 207km
Davide Formolo is the man leading the chase of Stybar, but the Etixx rider has a gap now and a handful of seconds going into the final 2.5km.
Only about 20 riders in this front group. Valverde is there too.
Puncture for Maxime Monfort, he's out of the game.
Oscar Gatto (Tinkoff) is now leading the chase, Sagan not far behind his teammate.
Stybar into the final few hundred metres. He's going to take this
Zdenek Stybar wins stage 2 of Tirreno-Adriatico
Sagan was second there, just a second or so behind Stybar. Boassan Hagen third as Nibali faded in the sprint.
That was a brilliantly timed and executed attack from Stybar and his is a double reward. Thanks to the 10 bonus seconds on the line, he is the new overall leader of Tirreno-Adriatico.
Here is the top 10:
1 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team
3 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data
4 Simon Clarke (Aus) Cannondale Pro Cycling
5 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
6 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team
7 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
8 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
9 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky
10 Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx - Quick-Step
General classification after stage 2
1 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step 5:33:50
2 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:00:09
3 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
4 Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team
5 Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team
6 Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:00:11
7 Bob Jungels (Lux) Etixx - Quick-Step
8 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team 0:00:14
9 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ 0:00:18
10 Sebastian Reichenbach (Swi) FDJ
We have a brief report, with results and some photos, at the link below. Full report, results and gallery to follow shortly.
"Two and a half weeks ago I thought this could be a stage for me - I was really focussed for it," says Stybar in front of the Eurosport microphone. "I didn't plan to go when I did but I saw an opportunity, there was some space, and I gave it everything."
Stybar jumps up onto the podium to collect no fewer than three jerseys. He leads the overall classification, the mountains, and the points.
Mark Cavendish rolls over the line some 20 minutes behind Stybar. Track World Championships hangover, perhaps?
That's it for our live coverage of stage 2 of Tirreno-Adriatico. Keep an eye on Cyclingnews for a full report very soon, and for all the news from our man in Italy Stephen Farrand. Thanks for joining!
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