NARNI SCALO, Italy (AP) — Sprint specialist Peter Sagan of Slovakia won the third stage of the weeklong Tirreno-Adriatico on Friday, showing his finishing power on a rainy day that drained the other contenders.
Mark Cavendish retained the overall lead by finishing second, although the British rider didn't look like he had the energy to push at full power when it counted.
Andre Greipel of Germany crossed third.
"It's the first time I've beaten Cavendish in my career," said Sagan, who specializes in difficult sprint stages and late solo breakaways. "Sure the conditions were unique but I'm really pleased with this win. ... My teammates did a great job of keeping then pace high on the last climb to tire the pure sprinters and I think it was the right tactic."
Sagan, who rides for the Cannondale team, clocked 5 hours, 15 minutes, 12 seconds over the rolling 190-kilometer route. Cavendish and Greipel had the same time.
"I tried to hold on but Sagan was very strong," Cavendish said.
In the overall standings, Cavendish holds a seven-second lead over Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammate Michal Kwiatkowski of Poland. The first five riders in the overall are all with Omega, which won the opening team time trial.
However, the standings should get a jolt after stage four on Saturday, a 173-kilometer route from Narni to Prati di Tivo, featuring a difficult uphill finish which should see overall contenders Alberto Contador, Chris Froome, Cadel Evans and Vincenzo Nibali shine.
The weeklong race ends on Tuesday with an individual time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto.