March 12, 2015

CASCINA, Italy (AP) Jens Debusschere sprinted to victory on the second stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico on Thursday, edging out Peter Sagan and Sam Bennett while Adriano Malori retained the overall lead.

The Belgian champion clocked 3 hours, 30 minutes, 18 seconds over the mainly flat, 153-kilometer (95-mile) route from Camaiore to Cascina to win a bunch sprint.

There were three crashes toward the end of the stage, including one in the final 500 meters which ended Elia Viviani's chances.

''It was really hectic today,'' Debusschere said. ''No one could make a proper lead-out, and we managed to punch ourselves into the Etixx lead-out train. I have to thank all of my teammates.

''I think after the Belgian championships, this is the nicest victory in my career.''

Sagan moved second in the overall standings, with the same time as Malori. Fabian Cancellara slipped to third.

Friday's third stage is a 203K (126.1-mile) leg from Cascina to Arezzo.

This year's race was set to be the first time that four riders with 10 Grand Tour wins between them have competed together in a World Tour stage race, but 2013 Tour de France champion Chris Froome withdrew on Monday because of a chest infection.

However, defending Tirreno champion Alberto Contador, two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali and last year's runner-up Nairo Quintana are in the race.

There was an early break of seven riders and they had built an advantage of six minutes after 43K (26.7 miles). However, that lead soon started to rapidly fall as the peloton upped its speed.

Most of the leaders were caught with 31K (19.3 miles) remaining, leaving just Edoardo Zardini, Carlos Quintero and Cristiano Salerno up front. That trio was mopped up by the bunch with 14K (8.7 miles) to go, on the last of two laps of the final circuit to the finish.

Last year's stage winner Matteo Pelucchi saw his hopes of a double end as he was caught up in the second of the three crashes.

The final crash had even more impact on the stage as the field was reduced to about a dozen sprinters after Viviani touched wheels with Mark Cavendish. Cavendish managed to stay up but Viviani went down heavily and sustained several abrasions. He eventually got up and crossed the line.

The 50th edition of the race across central Italy ends March 17, with an individual time trial.

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