Mark Cavendish claimed his fourth victory in the world champion’s jersey after winning the bunch sprint on stage two of Tirreno-Adriatico.
The Manx Missile, who opened his 2012 account with two wins at the Tour of Qatar before triumphing in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, outsprinted Oscar Freire and Tyler Farrar to cross the line first after the 230km stage from San Vincenzo to Indicatore.
Cavendish said: “It was a difficult day on paper but it wasn’t too fast for the guys so there were a lot of fresh legs and it was important for me to have the team around me, keeping me at the front.
“In the last 60kms there was lots of wind, lots of corners and lots of hills so it was important to stay up there and I was never out of the top 15 because I always had strong guys in front of me. Jez [Hunt], Bernie [Eisel] and Mat Hayman did an absolutely incredible job.
“In the final Edvald did 1500 metres in the wind, just keeping me protected. Then with 200 metres to go Farrar hit the front and I was able to sprint to the finish. I’m super, super happy, that was an incredible job by the guys.”
Cavendish is using the Italian stage race to prepare for Milan-San Remo on March 17 and the 26-year-old’s win caps a fine day for Team Sky after Bradley Wiggins finished third on stage five of Paris-Nice to remain in the yellow jersey.
A two man break made up of Diego Caccia (Farnese Vini) and Stefano Pirazzi (Colnago-CSF) was allowed to escape early in the stage before being caught with 24km remaining on the second of two 33km finishing circuits around Indicatore.
A crash split the peloton with less than 2km to the line but most of the sprinters were out of harms way at the front, battling for position ahead of the bunch kick.
Edvald Boasson Hagen moved Cavendish to the front before the world champion jumped on to the wheel of Farrar, moving past the American to secure victory.
Tirreno-Adriatico stage two
1) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Team Sky – 6:32.32 hours
2) Oscar Freire Gomez (SPA) – Katusha
3) Tyler Farrar (USA) – Garmin-Barracuda
4) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Liquigas-Cannondale
5) Sacha Modolo (ITA) Colnago-CSF Inox
6) Kenny Robert Van Hummel (NED) – Vacansoleil-DCM
7) Danilo Napolitano (ITA) – Acqua & Sapone
8) Borut Bozic (SLO) – Astana
9) William Bonnet (FRA) – FDJ-BigMat
10) Ruben Perez Moreno (SPA) – Euskaltel-Euskadi
1) Matt Goss (AUS) – GreenEdge – 6:51.13 hours
2) Stuart O’Grady (AUS) – GreenEdge
3) Sebastian Langeveld (NED) – GreenEdge
4) Cameron Meyer (AUS) – GreenEdge
5) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Team Sky +13″
6) Tyler Farrar (USA) – Garmin-Barracuda
7) Daniele Bennati (ITA) – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek +17″
8) Chris Horner (USA) – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek
9) Fabian Cancellara (SWI) – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek
10) Ramunas Navardauskas (LTU) – Garmin-Barracuda