BC-CYC-Tirreno-Adriatico, 2nd Ld-Writethru, 276Kwiatkowski leads Tirreno-Adriatico with 1 stage leftAP Photo FAN101, FAN102, FAN106, FAN103, FAN105Eds: Adds photo links.
Not only did his team-mates manage to help him avoid a crash with just over seven kilometres to go, but Rick Zabel and José Gonçalves were then able to keep Kittel at the very front of the bunch through the final kilometre, dropping him off in the ideal position at the front of the pack with 200m to go from where it was nearly impossible for the German to lose.
One of the favorites, Fernando Gaviria, touched the wheel of another cyclist and went down, taking others with him.
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Sagan was also involved in the crash, siting directly on the wheel of Gaviria, yet miraculously managed to stay upright, finishing second on the stage. Seconds later I heard it was Gaviria. "It was tricky. I had to be careful but I had good feelings today and that's why I could finish so well".
Gaviria's crash will cause a headache for his Belgian WorldTour squad but not spell disaster as the team will be able to fall back on last year's podium finisher Julian Alaphilippe and an ultra-motivated Philippe Gilbert. We controlled the race.
"I didn't want to lose Tirreno-Adriatico by a few seconds without trying to get the time bonus in the intermediate sprint", Kwiatkowski said.
Dennis was quickest on the 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) individual time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto.