Live coverage of stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico, 176 kilometres from Castelnuovo Val di Cecina to Montalto di Casto.
Welcome to our coverage of stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico, where Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) began the day in the blue jersey of race leader following his fine victory on the puncheurs' finale at Pomarance yesterday. The overall picture looked as follows ahead of the start in Castelnuovo Val di Cecina:
1 Zdenek Štybar (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 Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) FDJ
115km remaining from 176km
As we pick up the action with 115 kilometres remaining, a break of four riders - Giorgio Cecchinel (Androni Giocattoli), José Gonçalves (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Davide Villella (Cannondale) and Adrian Honkisz (CCC-Sprandi Polkowice) - has a lead of 3:30 over the peloton, which is being led by Etixx-QuickStep.
115km remaining from 176km
As we pick up the action with 115 kilometres remaining, a break of five riders - Giorgio Cecchinel (Androni Giocattoli), José Gonçalves (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Davide Villella (Cannondale), Simone Andreeta (Bardiani-CSF) and Adrian Honkisz (CCC-Sprandi Polkowice) - has a lead of 3:30 over the peloton, which is being led by Etixx-QuickStep.
The escapees slipped clear in the opening 10 kilometres and built up a maximum lead of 4:35 before Orica-GreenEdge, with Caleb Ewan in mind, and Etixx-QuickStep, with a thought to Fernando Gaviria, set about whittling down their advantage.
With just one categorised climb, to Scansano, on the agenda, today's stage is one for the sprinters, though, as ever at Tirreno-Adriatico, there's something of a twist. As the name 'Montalto' suggests, the road kicks up to bring us to the finish. There's a ramp of 7% in the final kilometre and though the gradient relaxes in the final 500 metres, it will still be an uphill sprint to the line. That makes world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) is a likely contender, and perhaps Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), along with the usual list of fast men, including Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data).
Andreeta was also in the break yesterday and was indeed the last survivor at the front. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the Italian has opted to sit up and drop back to the peloton here. Giorgio Cecchinel (Androni Giocattoli), José Gonçalves (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Davide Villella (Cannondale) and Adrian Honkisz (CCC-Sprandi Polkowice) remain at the head of the race, still 3:30 up on the bunch.
Our own Stephen Farrand caught up with Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) and the Australian is well aware of the difficulty of the task facing him this afternoon. "It's not going to be a straight forward sprint stage, it's going to be a tough day out," Ewan told Cyclingnews. "Obviously if there's only one real sprint stage in this year's Tirreno-Adriatico, then all the sprinters and their teams are going to be up for it. I think it's going to be a pretty tough one." You can read more here.
98km remaining from 176km
Into the final 100 kilometres for the escapees, who will tackle the climb of Scansano shortly after the intermediate sprint at Grosseto. Etixx-QuickStep continue to patrol the front of the peloton and the gap remains stable at 3:30.
Stybar showed signs of his form with his second place at Strade Bianche last weekend and he highlighted his status as a contender at Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix with yesterday's fine win. You can read his thoughts on that victory here and then enjoy video highlights over here.
After two hours of racing, the average speed is a brisk 40kph. The four escapees have come through the intermediate sprint at Grosseto and the feed zone, and they hit the day's major climb with 4:30 in hand.
Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) admitted that he was unsure of his prospects at the start this morning. "It's difficult to come off the track," he said. "I think the guys who didn't do the Track Worlds were stronger than me yesterday. But we've got a good team here with Dimension Data."
The stage might provide a chance of revenge for sorts for Elia Viviani (Sky), who felt he had been worked over by Cavendish and eventual world champion Fernando Gaviria in the omnium points race at the Track Worlds in London last weekend. That trio are among the sprinters on show this afternoon. "We're not thinking any more about the track after last week, it's a different race," Viviani said, unconvincingly.
76km remaining from 176km
The break is on the climb to Scansano, with a lead of 4:15 over the peloton. Cecchinal suffers a broken derailleur, but after a quick bike change, he is quickly back up to his companions, who had slackened their pace to wait for him in any case.
Etixx-QuickStep and Orica-GreenEdge remain on the front of the peloton, but it's interesting to see a phalanx of Astana riders swarmed around Vincenzo Nibali just behind them. The favourite for overall honours is taking a leaf from the Cadel Evans playbook and sticking rigorously to the head of the bunch.
72km remaining from 176km
The industrious Svein Tuft has put in big shift on the front for Orica-GreenEdge and Caleb Ewan. The Canadian is still on the front on the climb of Scansano, and the break's lead is very much under control at four minutes.
The WorldTour, it seems, is still some way from being reformed, which means that, much like William Faulkner's The Wild Palms, cycling's current 'narrative' is one of interwoven but seemingly unrelated stories. You can follow each of the WorldTour's clashing stage races here on Cyclingnews today. While you enjoy the fare from Italy here, why not open another browser window and read Patrick Fletcher describe the action at Paris-Nice (here)?
68km remaining from 176km
Tuft has made another sizeable dent in the break's lead. The gap is down to 3:40.
The temperature is a pleasant 15 degrees as the bunch trundles through southern Tuscany towards the northern fringe of Lazio region. A few dark clouds have gathered, but the rain should hold off.
64km remaining from 176km
Davide Villella (Cannondale) out-sprints Goncalves to claim the mountains points at Scansano. The Italian sits up immediately over the top and waits for his companions. Their lead is down to 3:06 over the peloton.
61km remaining from 176km
The peloton is hurtling down a rather hairy descent from Scansano, but everybody seems to be through safely. The gap to the break continues to tumble, and now stands at 2:45.
56km remaining from 176km
Etixx-QuickStep take up the reins once again on the descent from Scansano, and their efforts are whittling the break's advantage down towards the two-minute mark.
50km remaining from 176km
Villella and the escapees are climbing once again, this time on the uncategorised ascent towards Manciano. The pace is in the peloton is brisk and the intensity will only ratchet upwards as we approach the final hour of racing.
47km remaining from 176km
Indeed, the pace has slackened a notch or two at the head of the bunch. Orica-GreenEdge and Etixx-QuickStep have no wish to peg back the break too soon, so they're more than happy to allow their advantage drift out towards three minutes once again.
It should be stressed, of course that "Orica-GreenEdge" and "Svein Tuft" have essentially been interchangeable terms in this live report. The Canadian is putting in an immense shift on the front the bunch this afternoon. The blue jerseys of Etixx-QuickStep are lined up just behind him.
43km remaining from 176km
There's a sense of calm before the storm on the verdant hills of the province of Grosseto right now. The bunch is happy to amble along three minutes behind the break for now, but the air of detente will disappear within the next ten kilometres or so.
Villella, Cecchinel, Goncalves and Honkisz pass the pretty village of Montemerano as they continue the gentle climb towards Manciano. Once they reach Manciano, they'll have just 35 largely downhill kilometres to go, and that it is when the endgame will begin in earnest. The lead remains 2:51.
40km remaining from 176km
Taylor Phinney was the man in the Svein Tuft role yesterday. The pace on the climb right now is steady enough for the American to drop back and pick up a few bidons for his BMC teammates. Phinney, of course, is still feeling his way back into action after his horrific crash at the 2014 US Championships, and this is what he had to say after BMC's win in Wednesday's team time trial.
38km remaining from 176km
The leading quartet continue their working alliance on the uncategorised climb and maintain a lead of three minutes over the peloton, where Etixx-QuickStep are tapping out a steady tempo.
35km remaining from 176km
Our four leaders are through Manciano and descending into the province of Viterbo with a lead of 2:30 over the peloton.
32km remaining from 176km
The peloton has started on the gradual descent that precedes the final ramp to the finish at Montalto di Castro and the space has ratcheted up accordingly. The break's lead is down to 2:14.
30km remaining from 176km
A delegation from Tinkoff moves up towards the head of the peloton with Peter Sagan's interests in mind. The scramble for positions ahead of the slightly uphill finale will be a sight to behold.
25km remaining from 176km
The peloton is lined out on this fast, fast section of road. The gap is at 1:43 and falling steadily.
23km remaining from 176km
Today isn't a day for Vincenzo Nibali, but the Italian champion has enjoyed a fine start to 2016, he's the favourite for overall honours here and clearly of the impression that he might as well ride at the front. The Sicilian is tucked in just ten positions back.
21km remaining from 176km
In the break, Giorgio Cecchinel offers up a grimace for the television cameras. The four leaders have just 1:21 in hand on the peloton, which is now being led by Movistar.
18km remaining from 176km
The break's lead is crumbling. It's down to just over a minute. There is an inevitability about their fate at this point.
15km remaining from 176km
Luke Durbridge heads up an Orica-GreenEdge train at the front of the peloton. It will be fascinating to see how Caleb Ewan fares on this finale, which - on paper at least - is not altogether unlike the finish at Alcalá de Guadáira where he won at last year's Vuelta a Espana.
12km remaining from 176km
The peloton is bowling along a wide, slightly downhill road and continues to snatch back tufts of seconds from the break's lead. The gap is now at 42 seconds.
11km remaining from 176km
The escapees' day-long efforts are really beginning to tell. Goncalves shows distinct signs of flagging but receives a gentle tap of encouragement from Cecchinel. Their lead drops to 34 seconds.
10km remaining from 176km
Etixx-QuickStep are gathered at the front in support of Fernando Gaviria, and the fluorescent jerseys of Tinkoff are assembling on behalf of Peter Sagan.
9km remaining from 176km
Positioning will be especially critical in today's finale. The word from Montalto di Castro is that the road narrows with a shade over 1500 metres remaining before the kick up towards the line begins.
8km remaining from 176km
A small delegation from Team Sky moves up in support of Elia Viviani. Meanwhile, Svein Tuft and Yves Lampaert have knocked off after their long stints on the front and share a chat as they drop towards the rear of the peloton.
7km remaining from 176km
The leaders continue to put up stout resistance and they've even tacked on a couple of seconds to their lead, which now stands at 35 seconds. Orica-GreenEdge respond by upping the ante at the head of the bunch.
6km remaining from 176km
Remarkably, the break's lead has stretched back out to 39 seconds. The sprinters' teams will need to bring their game of bluff and counter-bluff to a halt sooner rather than later.
5km remaining from 176km
Etixx-QuickStep take it up once again, and the lead falls once more to 31 seconds.
4km remaining from 176km
Dimension Data move up, though it's not yet clear if their hopes are pinned on Cavendish or Edvald Boasson Hagen this afternoon.
4km remaining from 176km
The break enters the final 4 kilometres with 24 seconds in hand on the bunch.
3km remaining from 176km
Villella leads the break into the final three kilometres. The margin has fallen to just 15 seconds. Their race is almost run.
2km remaining from 176km
Etixx-QuickStep and Orica-GreenEdge are at the front as the bunch hurtles into the final two kilometres, just 5 seconds down on the break.
1km remaining from 176km
The escapees are caught just as the race swings on to the narrower roads.
1km remaining from 176km
Dimension Data and Tinkoff lead the bunch into the final kilometre.
Tinkoff and Lampre are in front as the road pitches upwards.
Daniele Bennati leads into the final 400 metres..
Fernando Gaviria hits the front but Caleb Ewan is closing...
Fernando Gaviria (Eixx-QuickStep) wins stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico.
Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) takes second in the sprint.
Elia Viviani (Sky) took third place ahead of Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Leigh Howard (IAM Cycing).
Gaviria has seemed boxed in with 300 metres remaining, but the Colombian picked out a gap and then sprinted clear with his hands on his brakehoods. Ewan was the only man in the same postcode by the finish, the two youngsters finished well clear of Viviani and Sagan.
1 Fernando Gaviria (Col) Etixx - Quick-Step 04:17:28
2 Caleb Ewan (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
3 Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky
4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team
5 Leigh Howard (Aus) IAM Cycling
6 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
7 Zico Waeytens (Bel) Team Giant-Alpecin
8 Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre - Merida
9 Moreno Hofland (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
10 Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin
It's a double celebration for Etixx-QuickStep, who claim their second successive stage win. The blue jersey of race leader remains on the shoulders of Zdenek Stybar, who maintains his 9-second lead atop the overall standings.
1 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step 09:51:18
2 Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team 00:00:09
3 Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team
4 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
5 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
6 Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx - Quick-Step 00:00:11
7 Bob Jungels (Lux) Etixx - Quick-Step
8 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team 00:00:14
9 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ 00:00:18
10 Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) FDJ
Thanks for joining our live coverage of Tirreno-Adriatico this afternoon on Cyclingnews. A full report, results and pictures will follow here and our man in Montalto di Castro, Stephen Farrand, will have all of the news and reaction from the finish.
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