Peter Sagan off the mark with win at Tirreno-Adriatico
Slovakian Peter Sagan warmed up for this weekend`s Milan-SanRemo classic by powering to victory, his first of the season, in the rain-hit sixth stage of Tirreno-Adriatico on Monday.
Sprint specialist Sagan, one of the favourites for the season`s first major one-day race on Sunday, finished ahead of German Gerald Ciolek with Belgian champion Jens Debusschere finishing in third place.
Colombian Nairo Quintana, of Movistar, retained the overall leader`s blue jersey, following his mountaintop victory in the snow on Sunday.
Sagan, taking his first win for the Tinkoff team, was given a late boost as a host of other victory contenders, including Britain`s Mark Cavendish, were distanced in the latter stages.
It was his first victory since June 2014 and has come in timely fashion.
"Has it been nine months? Well I`m really happy then," Sagan told Rai, adding that even team leader Alberto Contador was put to the task.
"Even Alberto was contributing."
He added: "I hope it`s the beginning of a new period for me."
A day after being subjected to blizzard-like snow on stage five`s climb to Terminillo, the peloton had to endure just over five hours of being lashed by rain on Monday`s 210 km ride from Rieti to Porto Sant`Elpidio.
Despite the challenging conditions an early breakaway attempt by three riders that took off after 15km was reeled in with 50km remaining, although Astana`s Alessandro Vanotti continued his earlier attempt by soloing away from the bunch.
The Italian was joined by Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R) in the final 28km as they began two laps of a 14km circuit, and the Frenchman was left on his own 12km out only to be reeled in as the sprinters` teams upped the pace.
The 50th edition of the race concludes on Tuesday with a 10km time trial during which Quintana will bid to become the first Colombian to triumph.
The 2014 Giro d`Italia winner holds a 39sec lead on Dutchman Bauke Mollema, with fellow Colombian Rigoberto Uran third overall at 48.
Frenchman Thibaut Pinot remains fourth, at 57sec while defending champion Alberto Contador is fifth with a deficit of 1min 03sec.