Cavendish takes stage 6 at Tirreno-Adriatico

The Omega-Pharma Quick Step rider finishes ahead of teammate Alessandro Petacchi and Cannondale's Peter Sagan

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Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) won stage 6 of Tirreno-Adriatico Monday in a sprint finish.

The 187-kilometer route from Bucchianico to Porto Sant’Elpidio ended with two loops around a 13.8km circuit. There were two right turns near the end, with 1,700 meters and 1,600 meters to go. A few riders crashed on the second turn, which caused many others to hit the brakes.

Omega Pharma, which was already at the front of the race, emerged from the bend with a slight gap on everyone else. Three teammates escorted Cavendish into the 1,500-meter finishing straight and a victory was all but complete.

Cavendish rode their wheels until there were about 100 meters left, at which point he swung around and launched his finishing sprint. His teammate Alessandro Petacchi managed to place second; Peter Sagan (Cannondale) was third.

“That leadout was fast. Really super, super fast,” Cavendish said afterward. “To get it technically perfect, I’m super happy with that.”

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) kept his overall lead ahead of Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff), who trail by 2:08 and 2:15.

Dramatic final climb

The route was flat except for four bumps, which included a climb of Sant’Elpidio a Mare that peaked with just under 47km left. Cannondale, hoping to deliver Sagan a stage win, pushed the pace hard at the front of the peloton on the climb in an effort to drop the other sprinters.

The tactic was successful, as some of the speedsters in the field — most notably Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) — fell off the back. Kittel’s teammates immediately dropped back to help him, and they were joined by other riders as the peloton, which trailed a four-man escape group by just under 2 minutes at this point, charged forward.

“There was some tension on the final climb,” Contador said. “Cannondale was pulling hard to try to drop some of the sprinters. The most important thing was to avoid a crash or a mishap. My team protected me, and I enjoyed carrying the leader’s jersey in front of the Italian fans. I was thinking about tomorrow’s time trial. We hope we can achieve the overall victory.”

Cannondale traded pulling duties with Omega Pharma and Lotto-Belisol at the front of the main pack.

The Kittel group rode hard to bridge the gap, which at one point was nearly 2 minutes, but was unable to contend for the stage win.

“Peter Sagan’s Cannondale team made a hard race on the last two climbs to put Marcel Kittel into trouble,” said Alessandro Petacchi, who helped lead out Cavendish at the finish. “Mark honestly amazed me. It was a good test for Sanremo even if we have Tom Boonen, Michal Kwiatkowski. We can ride almost any type of race.”

Early break

The four-man break of Peter Kennaugh (Sky), Steve Morabito (BMC Racing), Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp), and Cesare Benedetti (NetApp-Endura) formed as soon as the stage began. They rode out front all day until the peloton, thanks to Cannondale’s hard effort, started to reel them in.

Bauer attacked his breakaway mates with 25km remaining, which dropped Benedetti from the group. At the start of the second and final finishing circuit, Kennaugh gave up and fell back as well.

The two remaining leaders were caught not long after that.

The race ends Tuesday with a 9.2km time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto.

An American in France

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