Fabian Cancellara claimed the final time trial with a fantastic performance. The Swiss rider smashed the competition to take the stage win, while the general classification came to the most scintillating of conclusions with Greg Van Avermaet winning the GC by just 1 second ahead of Peter Sagan.
The seventh and final stage of the Race to the Sea was a short dash around the streets of San Benedetto del Tronto, 10km of flat and largely untechnical roads that would be a pure-power effort against the clock. The day began with a few question marks, namely how close could the pre-Tirreno-Adriatico favourites Nibali et al get close to the blue jersey? Could Peter Sagan finally turn the tables on this year’s race and if not claim the stage then claim the overall win? Would Greg van Avermaet be crowned the first Belgian winner of Tirreno-Adriatico since Roger De Vlaeminck?
What was remarkable though in the early stages of the time trial was the performance of FDJ’s Johan Le Bon. The Frenchman was one of two FDJ riders to perform very strongly over the course, with teammate Alexandre Geniez setting a time of 11.26mins. But Le Bon darted around the course in 11.21mins to set a very competitive time. In fact that time had the better of a number of top riders with former world time trial champion Tony Martin of Etixx-Quick Step, reigning Commonwealth champion Alex Dowsett of Movistar, reigning world time trial champion Vasil Kiryienka of Team Sky all among those who couldn’t topple the Frenchman.
But Fabian Cancellara was a colossus over the course. He not only beat the time of Le Bon, but smashed it by a full 13 seconds to seize the stage win convincingly. It continues an impressive run of form for Spartacus who already has three more wins to his name this season at the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana, the Tour of the Algarve and Strade Bianche.
Among the strong performances on the day was the ride of Cannondale’s Jack Bauer. Continuing his climb back to peak condition, the Kiwi posted a time of 11.42mins to squeeze inside the top 30 on the stage just behind Bob Jungels of Etixx-Quick Step. AG2R La Mondiale’s Jesse Sergent didn’t have the time trial we are accustomed to, crossing the line 8 seconds slower than Bauer ahead of Christopher Juul-Jensen and Jurgen Roelandts.
But from here attention now turned to who would take GC honours. Greg Van Avermaet started the day in the blue jersey, 7 seconds ahead of Zdenek Stybar and 8 seconds ahead of Peter Sagan. Cancellara’s stage win would pose no threat to their GC aspirations, with the Swiss rider starting almost 9 minutes back on Van Avermaet.
Sagan stormed out of the start house and squeezed all the effort he could muster out of his legs on the course to stop the clock in a solid 11.32mins, good enough for 11th place on the stage. It was hard to bet against Sagan beating Van Avermaet in the time trial, and the Belgian was slower, but not slow enough. The BMC Racing rider crossed the line with 1 second still in hand over Sagan; thus securing Tirreno-Adriatico 2016. Zdenek Stybar faded over the course and fell from 2nd to 7th overall as Bob Jungels of Etixx-Quick Step succeeded him in third place overall.