Sky’s team leaders for the 2012 Tirreno-Adriatico, Mark Cavendish and Edvald Boasson Hagen, were among members of the British team to withdraw from today’s sixth stage, which was won by Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).
The British team’s stars, both of whom won stages last week, were among a number of high-profile riders to pull out of the seven stage race from the Tyrrhenian to Adriatic seas.
Last year’s world number one, Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) and the first rider to wear the blue leader’s jersey in this year’s Tirreno-Adriatico, Matt Goss (GreenEDGE), withdrew through illness.
Boasson Hagen was pulled out b this team as a precaution after suffering a shoulder injury in a crash last week, while Cavendish climbed off mid-stage and will now prepare for the first of the season’s ‘monument’ classics, this Saturday’s Milan-San Remo (17).
Bernie Eisel and CJ Sutton also withdrew, reducing Sky’s representation in tomorrow’s closing time trial to Britain’s Jeremy Hunt and Ian Stannard, and the Australian, Matt Hayman.
Team Sky directeur sportif, Servais Knaven, said: “It was a really hard day today. With an eye on Milan-San Remo we took the decision to stop today for Cav and Bernie. CJ is also having a bit of a problem with his knee so that is why he pulled out.
“But the guys feel they are ready for San Remo and they didn’t want to go too deep, take any risks and require the extra recovery.”
Rodriguez secured a hat trick of victories in Tirreno-Adriatico by attacking with just one kilometre remaining and holding off the challenge of an elite chasing group headed by the winner of yesterday’s stage, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale).
The Spaniard said the stage was better suited to his countryman and team mate, three-time world champion, Oscar Friere, but seized his chance when he saw Friere was not in the running.
“My only chance was to anticipate my rush and attack from far, because in the bunch there was Peter Sagan and I couldn´t compete with him in a sprint. It was an important victory: now I´m more persuaded the work we did from Tour of Oman to Tirreno-Adriatico was good.
“I proved I´m getting better and better and for Vuelta al Pais Vasco I´ll be ready for taking some other good results. I won´t go to Milan-San Remo, but I’m sure we can do a great race: Freire is in a great shape, so I think he has many chances to win his fourth Spring Classic”.
Race leader, Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek), finished in the leading group to retain a five-second gap over Roman Kreuziger (Astana) before tomorrow’s concluding time trial.
Horner said: “We have three very, very strong riders all very close on GC. I’m sure the fans will get to watch a good race. I’d like to go to bed early but that probably won’t happen so maybe I can sleep in late. Mentally you just go with the flow. Life goes on whether you win or lose for sure. So I’ll try to relax tonight and then in the morning as the race approaches, hopefully I’ll remain calm and easy.”
Kreuziger, a respected time triallist, stands a real chance of taking his first WorldTour victory.
Tirreno-Adriatico stage six
1) Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (SPA) – Katusha Team 4:38.27
2) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale
3) Danilo Di Luca (ITA) – Acqua & Sapone
4) Christopher Horner (USA)- RadioShack-Nissan-Trek
5) Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA) – AG2R La Mondiale
6) Wout Poels (NED) – Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
7) Roman Kreuziger (CZE) – Astana Pro Team
8) Oscar Gatto (ITA) – Farnese Vini – Selle Italia
9) Michele Scarponi (ITA) – Lampre – ISD
10) Johnny Hoogerland (NED) – Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
1) Christopher Horner (USA) – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek 29:27:06
2) Roman Kreuziger (CZE) – Astana Pro Team + 5”
3) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale + 6”
4) Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA) – AG2R La Mondiale + 45”
5) Michele Scarponi (ITA) – Lampre – ISD + 47”
6) Johnny Hoogerland (NED) – Vacansoleil-DCM + 48”
7) Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (SPA) – Katusha Team + 50”
8) Christophe Riblon (FRA) – AG2R La Mondiale + 1.15
9) Danilo Di Luca (ITA) – Acqua & Sapone + 1.21
10) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Colnago – CSF Inox + 1.22