Peter Sagan (Cannondale) won stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico on Friday in Narni Scalo, Italy, topping overall leader Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) in a bunch finish.
André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) was third.
“I beat the best sprinters of the peloton and this is a great satisfaction,” said Sagan. “My goal for the Tirreno is reached, now we’ll see day-by-day.”
Cavendish maintained his overall lead.
The 190km stage unfolded under heavy clouds and rain. A number of riders tried late escapes inside the final 20km, with Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Lars Boom (Blanco) launching back-to-back flyers on the descent from the Madonna Scoperta. Boom was able to snap the leash on the descent, pushing ahead of the Orica-led bunch as it approached the finish circuit at Narni Scalo.
When the peloton came through the finish, Boom sat just 100 meters off the front. Orica backed off, seemingly intent to let the Dutchman sit a little longer, but with just over 7km to go, the bunch was all together.
Orica continued to push the pace at the front, now with just a single rider, and Cavendish’s Omega Pharma teammates massed behind, positioning the blue leader’s jersey in sixth wheel. Vacansoleil-DCM made a bid to overtake the front of the group on the right side of the road.
When the tarmac pinched on a tight, right-hand corner with 2.9km to go, Cavendish and two of his mates found themselves forced to take the outside line on a round-about. The sharp turn required a speed dump and the men lost more than 20 positions in the bunch.
Soon after, Matteo Rabottini (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) attacked, but could only muster a handful of seconds before dropping back through the bunch. Sergey Lagutin (Orica) put in a dig on a ramp 3km from the line and took a quick five seconds. Looking over his left shoulder, Lagutin pushed out to an eight-second advantage with 1.8km to go, and with a technical approach to the finish in front of him.
The Uzbek rider was committed to a bid for the stage win, but carried just four seconds under the 1km to go kite. The bunch closed on him quickly, erasing his lead with 800 meters to go.
“[The last kilometer] was good, there was the climb that we did very hard, I think the sprinters felt in their legs,” said Sagan. “Orica pulled in the sprint, we were all lined out. I got on Greipel’s wheel. In the last meters, Mark moved up, he didn’t have men, we were fighting for Greipel’s wheel. I put my hand out to stop him! No, I’m kidding. Our shoulders rubbed, but nothing major.”
Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) opened the sprint in the center of the road, but Sagan burst to the right of a surging Greipel with 200 meters to go. Cavendish couldn’t come off the wheel of the Slovak champion and had to settle for second.
“Gert [Steegmans] brought me up in the last 500 meters, I tried to get on Greipel’s wheel. Peter did a really good job of fighting it back for it, so I went on his wheel,” said Cavendish. “Those narrow roads, if you don’t start your sprint early it’s difficult, you are already spinning out. I gambled sitting behind, but in the end I ran out of meters to come around Peter. It was just a fast sprint, he sat in the saddle for much of it.”
Greipel was third and Ciolek fourth.
The 48th Tirreno-Adriatico continues Saturday with the key, 173km fourth stage from Narni to Prati di Tivo. The mountaintop finish at the ski station should prove pivotal for the general classification. The race ends Tuesday.
Gregor Brown contributed to this report.