Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) produced another impressive display of early-season form with victory on stage four of the 2012 Tirreno-Adriatico.
The Slovak national champion, who won the second stage of last month’s Tour of Oman, raised his arms in triumph at the end of today’s 252km stage from Amelia to Chieti.
Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek) assumes the overall lead of the race after finishing fifth today, behind Sagan, Roman Kreuziger (Astana) Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), and Acqua & Sapone’s Danilo De Luca.
Horner said his ascendancy to the leader’s blue jersey had not come as a complete surprise and backed himself for overall victory.
“Before the race today I thought for sure I might have the leader’s jersey at the end of the day. After the team time trial on Sunday, Fabian Cancellara and all the big riders on my team did a fantastic job, so today they protected me from the wind and brought me to the front at the bottom of the climb.
“Cancellara got me in position and then I knew to follow the moves from the best riders on the day. All the team was very important to me today. They’ve worked very hard for me in the past few days and this stage was a goal for us. My legs are feeling very good, so certainly I have a shot at winning the overall.”
Horner leads by seven seconds from Kreuziger, who holds a six second advantage over Cameron Meyer (GreenEDGE). Meyer’s teammate, Matt Goss, who had lead the race from the opening stage, slipped to 115th on GC, 10:31 off leader Horner.
Britain’s Team Sky suffered a difficult day after back-to-back victories from the previous two stages.
Thomas Löfkvist was withdrew with illness at the beginning of the stage and the winner of yesterday’s third stage, Edvale Boasson Hagen, crashed just seven kilometres from the finish.
His return to the bunch, assisted by teammates Matthew Hayman and Ian Stannard, was hindered by mechanical issues and he rolled just under a minute behind stage winner Sagan.
Team Sky’s directeur sportif, Servais Knaven, said: “He gave it everything he had though – it’s just a pity as he felt really good and was really motivated to do a good finish today and was right up there on the GC.”
Tomorrow’s 196km fifth stage from Martinsicuro ends on the summit of the 1450m Prati di Tivo. The riders must also ascend the 1227m Plano Rossetto.
Tirenno-Adriatico stage four
1) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Liquigas-Cannondale 7:24.50
2) Roman Kreuziger (CZE) – Astana Pro Team
3) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale
4) Danilo Di Luca (ITA) – Acqua & Sapone
5) Christopher Horner (USA) – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek
6) Johnny Hoogerland (NED) – Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team +8”
7) Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA) – AG2R La Mondiale +10”
8) Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC Racing Team + 12”
9) Michele Scarponi (ITA) – Lampre – ISD
10) Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (SPA) – Katusha Team
1) Christopher Horner (USA) – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek 19:01.54 hours
2) Roman Kreuziger (CZE) – Astana Pro Team +7”
3) Cameron Meyer (AUS) – GreenEdge Cycling Team +13”
4) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Liquigas-Cannondale +21”
5) Danilo Di Luca (ITA) – Acqua & Sapone +22”
6) Fabian Cancellara (SWI) – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek +30”
7) Paolo Tiralongo (ITA) – Astana Pro Team +32”
8) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale +34”
9) Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (SPA) – Katusha Team +35”
10) Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA) – AG2R La Mondiale +36”