Mark Cavendish cruised to victory in the sixth and penultimate stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, with Alberto Contador retaining the overall lead.
We're tired. We knew Cannondale would try to break it up on the last climb, another difficult climb. But the team stayed with me, especially Kwiat and Tony keeping me out of the wind and bringing me back to the front as soon as possible. Then that lead out, that leadout was fast.
Following a crash in the final bend before the finishing straight, Cavendish had an armchair ride behind the wheels of three Omega Pharma-QuickStep team-mates in the final 150 metres of the 189 km stage from Bucchianico to Porto Sant'Elpidio to win solo.
Team-mate Alessandro Petacchi finished second with Peter Sagan (Cannondale) in third place.
“We had the all the big motors in the last four kilometers,”said Cavendish. “Tony (Martin) just went on the front with no one to match us.
“Then Kwiato (Kwiatkowski) went and took us into the last kilometer. it was down to Matteo (Trentin), (Mark) Renshaw, (Alessandro) Petacchi, and myself.
“I knew when Renshaw went with about 600 meters to go, I knew it would be hard for anyone to pass because we were going that fast. We were doing more than 1000 watts for the last 600 meters. It was like doing a sprint.”
Less than a week from the season's first major one-day classic, the Milan-San Remo, Cavendish said he was delighted with the form that has seen him win one stage at the Volta ao Algarve as well as his earlier Tirreno-Adriatico stage victory.
"I'm really happy because I'm in great shape. I can't wait for Milan-Sanremo," said Cavendish.
Earlier, Sagan's Cannondale team upped the pace when it became clear that sprint rival Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) was struggling on one of several climbs.
In the closing kilometres Philippe Gilbert (BMC) pulled clear of the peloton after it had caught the earlier four-man breakaway of Peter Kennaugh (Sky), Steve Morabito (BMC), Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp) and Cesare Benedetti (NetApp-Endura).
However Gilbert, who will also fancy his chances in Milan-San Remo, was reeled in as Omega Pharma-QuickStep upped the pace for the final dash for the line.
A right-hand bend proved fatal for the sprinters looking to prevail on the long home straight, with Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) one of several caught up in the ensuing melee.
It left a small group of riders to go on and contest the win, but with three teammates leading him out in the finale there was little chance of Cavendish facing an upset.
Feels good to be back winning with the @opqscyclingteam guys! Today we got the leadout right, now we need to do that every race!— Mark Renshaw (@Mark_Renshaw) March 17, 2014
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), who claimed the overall lead with victory on Stage 5, still leads Nairo Quintana (Movistar) by 2min 08sec in the overall standings ahead of the final 9.1km time trial stage.
"It was a perfect scenario for us. We were hoping that the sprinters’ teams would take the reins of the pack and as Kittel was dropped, they were all eager to work in the front so we didn't have to,” said Tinkoff-Saxo sporting director Philippe Mauduit.
"Now, we're only one stage away from the overall win and let's face it, it looks pretty promising with a two minute lead to Quintana.
"But history shows that many unforeseen things can happen during a time trial and we're not celebrating until Alberto crosses the finish line tomorrow."
Stage 6: 189km, Bucchianico to Porto Sant'Elpidio
1 Mark Cavendish (GBR) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 4hr 16min 15sec
2 Alessandro Petacchi (ITA) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
3 Peter Sagan (SVK) Cannondale
4 Arnaud Demare (FRA) FDJ.fr
5 Tony Hurel (FRA) Europcar
6 Robert Wagner (GER) Belkin
7 Kristian Sbaragli (ITA) MTN-Qhubeka
8 Bartosz Huzarski (POL) NetApp0Endura
9 Mark Renshaw (AUS) Omega Omega Pharma-QuickStep
10 Davide Appollonio (ITA) AG2R
1 Alberto Contador (ESP) Tinkoff-Saxo 25hr 17min 51sec
2 Nairo Quintana (COL) Movistar 0:02:08
3 Roman Kreuziger (CZE) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:02:15
4 Julian Arredondo (COL) Trek Factory Racing 0:02:39
5 Jean-Christophe Peraud (FRA) AG2R 0:02:40
6 Mikel Nieve (ESP) Sky 0:02:50
7 Daniel Moreno (ESP) Katusha 0:02:51
8 Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) AG2R 0:02:56
9 Giampaolo Caruso (ITA) Katusha 0:02:58
10 Robert Kiserlovski (CRO) Trek Factory Racing 0:03:06