Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) sprinted to victory, and into the blue jersey, on the uphill stage three finish of Tirreno-Adriatico in Arezzo.
The Belgian ace led the difficult sprint out from the front and held off a late charge from Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) to claim victory.
Sagan, who won the same stage last year with Cannondale, looked favourite for the stage as Tinkoff-Saxo led the peloton for much of the stage, driving the pace onto the final lap.
But Van Avermaet and BMC Racing proved too strong in the finale, not only denying Sagan the stage win but also the race lead, which the Belgian now holds by two seconds.
For the second day running, the peloton was content to allow a break build a significant lead before setting about reeling it all in again.
Danilo Wyss (BMC Racing) and Carlos Quintero (Colombia) made the split for the second consecutive stage, with Nicola Boem (Bardiani-CSF), Chad Haga (Giant-Alpecin) and Rick Flens (LottoNL-Jumbo) completing the quintet.
Once Tinkoff-Saxo – led by Matteo Tosatto – had organised their chase, however, an advantage that at one point stood at just shy of 12 minutes very quickly tumbled until only Haga and Boem were left up front on the finishing circuit.
Tinkoff-Saxo, with Sagan in tow, led the peloton throughout the day while race leader Adriano Malori (Movistar) was happy to do a stint in the wind with the protection of team leader Nairo Quintana their top priority.
The fluoro yellow line of Tinkoff-Saxo riders were still on the front as they took the bell – Haga and Boem having been caught – with Sagan sat comfortably on Alberto Contador’s wheel, sixth in the line.
Ian Stannard (Team Sky) hit the front with 8km to go, with the bandaged Elia Viviani on his wheel, while several other teams began to organise on the front.
Malori was again on the front to protect Quintana but it was BMC Racing looking strongest as they put the power down for Greg van Avermaet.
Team LottoNL-Jumbo claimed the slipstream of a camera bike to keep themselves in contention too, lining out on the opposite side of the road as no team was able to take control of the bunch.
BMC Racing led under the flamme rouge, but it was Luca Paolini (Katusha) on the front as they hit rounded the corner onto the uphill finish.
Van Avermaet and Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) momentarily found themselves locked in a stalemate but the Belgian powered on as the road levelled out.
Sagan accelerated from behind in response, but it was to be Van Avermaet who claimed victory.
Tirreno-Adriatico 2015: stage three – result
1) Greg van Avermaet (BEL) – BMC Racing – 4.58.17hrs
2) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Tinkoff-Saxo – ST
3) Zdenek Stybar (CZE) – Etixx-QuickStep
4) Filippo Pozzato (ITA) – Lampre-Merida
5) Fabian Cancellara (SUI) – Trek Factory Racing
6) Simon Geschke (GER) – Team Giant-Alpecin
7) Paul Martens (GER) – Team LottoNL-Jumbo
8) Andriy Grivko (UKR) – Astana
9) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Etixx-QuickStep
10) Wout Poels (NED) – Team Sky
1) Greg van Avermaet (BEL) – BMC Racing – 8.34.31hrs
2) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Tinkoff-Saxo +2”
3) Adriano Malori (ITA) – Movistar +8”
4) Fabian Cancellara (SUI) – Trek Factory Racing +9”
5) Matthias Brandle (AUT) – IAM Cycling +10”
6) Ramunas Navardauskas (LTU) – Cannondale-Garmin +13”
7) Steve Cummings (GBR) – MTN-Qhubeka +14”
8) Jonathan Castroviejo (ESP) – Movistar +16”
9) Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) – MTN-Qhubeka – ST
10) Andriy Grivko (UKR) – Astana +17”