Tough day at the office in Tirreno-Adriatico
At the end of stage 6, Zdenek Stybar dropped to second in the general classification, but he's still in the cards to win the race.
It was another long day at Tirreno-Adriatico, Valerio Agnoli (Astana), Nikolay Mihaylov (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani), Mirko Selvaggi (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Ricardo Vilela (Caja Rural) and Federico Zurlo (Lampre-Merida) were the ones who made it to the breakaway, even though they knew the chances of succeeding were slim. In the first part of the stage, the six built a 5-minute advantage over the peloton, which then began to be trimmed it as the race progressed.
The break was caught easily long before the final in Cepagatti, a town which was preparing to greet the Tirreno-Adriatico peloton for the first time since the inception of the race. Thing began to heat up as the riders where approaching the last intermediate sprint, a point which turned out to be a key one for the outcome of the stage. Tinkoff forced a selection there and in the blink of an eye, an 8-man group took off: Zdenek Stybar, Fernando Gaviria, Matteo Trentin, Daniele Bennati, Oscar Gatto, Peter Sagan, Michal Kwiatkowski and Greg van Avermaet.
The teams who missed the move chased hard in order to bring back the riders at the front, but as this didn't happen, mainly because the terrain was undulating and tough in the last kilometers (with a 6.8% gradient), it eventually came down to a reduced sprint, which saw Van Avermaet (BMC) outpace Sagan and take a victory which brought him the blue jersey. Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) came third, while Zdenek finished fourth and dropped one position in the general classification, with one day left of "The Race of the Two Seas". Besides Stybar, two other Etixx – Quick-Step riders are in the top 5 of the general classification: Bob Jungels, who continues to lead in the white jersey standings, and Gianluca Brambilla.
"As consequence of the intermediate sprint at the first passage on the finish line, a small group of riders formed at the front. We had three guys: Styby, Fernando and Matteo. We thought it was a good opportunity, but it didn't work out as planned. Sometimes the line between winning and losing is really thin. This time we didn't make it. Tactically we probably should have done it differently, but we are out there on the road to try to win races and the guys in the front were really motivated to do it. Tomorrow we have another possibility. We will give our all to finish the race in the best possible way", said sport director Davide Bramati at the arrival in Cepagatti.
Losing first place, which he held since last Thursday, came as a disappointment for Zdenek Stybar, but despite the sadness caused by the outcome of stage six, he was quick to underline that the team's riders will fight until the very end: "It's a pity I lost the jersey and things didn't work out as we had hoped. I'm sad also for Bob, who lost a few seconds because of it. The action wasn't planned but we took our responsibility when we thought it was the moment to do it. We are always up there to win; if you don't try, you don't win, that's cycling. After the race we all know that it was a mistake but in the heat of the final you can also make mistakes by thinking you are doing the right thing. As usual, the winner takes it all, and we must congratulate Van Avermaet! Anyway, the race is not over and tomorrow we will give 100% to try to get another great result."
On Tuesday, the riders will go to San Benedetto del Tronto, a regular feature of the Tirreno-Adriatico, since the second edition, back in 1967. This year, the city in the Marche region will be once again the scene of the individual time trial along the sea coast, on a 10-km long completely flat and non-technical course, which will conclude the race.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele