• Greg Van Avermaet celebrates his win in San Benedetto del Tronto (RCS Sport)Source: RCS Sport
With the motivation of a hungry and clean shaven Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) chasing him down from behind, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) pulled out a time trial performance that clinched him the Tirreno-Adriatico title by a single second over the world champion.
Cycling Central

RCS Sport
16 Mar 2016 - 9:14 AM  UPDATED 16 Mar 2016 - 9:36 AM

Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) took the stage win and claimed his 56th victory in a time trial. He rode the fastest time in San Benedetto del Tronto for the fourth and final time in his long lasting career.

Cancellara clocked 11 minutes and eight seconds on the 10.1km course with an impressive average speed of 54.431km/h. This gave him an advantage of 13 seconds over French surprise Johan Le Bon (FDJ) who came second and Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) in third, and 15 seconds off Cancellara's blistering time.

"For sure there have been other time trials in my career that I’ll remember but besides the World Championships and the Olympic Games, this one is special,” said Cancellara, who is retiring at the end of the 2016 season after 16 years of professional racing.

“It’s my fourth and last one in San Bendetto del Tronto. I’ll keep good memories from all my time trials here. Today’s victory brings me a positive feeling because I didn’t start the week of racing at my best,” he said noting that the Stage 5 cancellation due to snow allowed him extra time to recover.

“Now I can rest ahead of my last Milan-San Remo. That will be another special one".

The fight for the trident was extremely tight. The prestigious trophy for the overall winner went to Greg Van Avermaet who maintained less than a one second (0.72, rounded up as per the rules) advantage over runner up, Sagan.

Sagan had started the final stage with the aim of making up his deficit of eight-seconds.

“One second is not a lot but it was enough to win the race.

"I knew it would be close and I’m not the best time trialist but I hoped to beat Sagan.

"I’m really happy that the one second difference is on my side. I never dreamed about winning Tirreno-Adriatico but I did it.” – Greg Van Avermaet.

Third place was just as tight as best young rider Bob Jungels (Etixx-QuickStep) fended off the FDJ climbing duo, formed of Sébastien Reichenbach and Thibaut Pinot, with a similar advantage of just one second.

"Beating Sagan often means that I’m winning a lot. He has been close to winning on many occasions, so I imagine it’s a lot of frustration for him,” said Van Avermaet.

“I know how it feels. I’ve come second myself too many times. I’m sure a big victory in the World Champion's jersey will come to him soon.”

"I’ve got mixed feelings,” said Sagan of his second place overall. “I should be disappointed to lose the overall classification by such a small margin but hadn’t the mountain stage been cancelled, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to race for GC.

“I’m more bitter about yesterday’s stage,” he added, upset that the winning Belgian didn’t help with the work in the day’s breakaway.

“The way Greg Van Avermaet rode it is certainly not my style of racing. He says he had team-mates at the back but I also had team-mates at the back and so did Etixx-QuickStep. Moreover, I’m happy with my form. This race puts me on the right track for my coming goals."

“I’m very happy now. I never thought I’d win this race," said Van Avermaet, standing by the decisions he made the day before. “It was once in a lifetime chance that I had could win Tirreno. It means a lot to me to have my name on the record book after Roger de Vlaeminck and all the great champions who have done it before me."

Van Avermaet is the first Belgian rider to win Tirreno-Adriatico since 1977.

“I’m feeling really confident going into Milan-San Remo this Saturday,” he said.

“The Classics are still my main goal but I’m going in with a few nice victories in my pocket. It’s nice to now go to the first big Classic a bit more relaxed.”

SBS will broadcast Milan-San Remo LIVE! Join us on SBS/HD or online from 12.30am AEDT on Sunday 20 March.