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Cavendish wins Tirreno stage; Contador keeps lead

- Associated Press - Monday, March 17, 2014

PORTO SANT'ELPIDIO, Italy (AP) - British rider Mark Cavendish took advantage of a crash to easily win the sixth and penultimate stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico race Monday, and Alberto Contador maintained his overall lead.

When several riders went down with little more than a kilometer to go, the pack split and Cavendish's Omega Pharma-Quick Step train was virtually alone in front.

"I only did the last 150 meters (yards)," Cavendish said. "I was so far ahead I couldn't lose."

Cavendish covered the mostly flat 189-kilometer (117-mile) leg from Bucchianico to Porto Sant'Elpidio in 4 hours, 16 minutes, 15 seconds. It was his second win this season, the 111th of his career, and it sets him up as one of the favorites for Sunday's Milan-San Remo classic.

Cavendish's teammate and setup man, Alessandro Petacchi, crossed a distant second and Peter Sagan of Slovakia was third, each with the same time.

Contador's 2:08 lead over Nairo Quintana remained unchanged. Roman Kreuziger, Contador's teammate with Tinkoff-Saxo, is third, 2:15 back.

The race ends Tuesday with a 9.1-kilometer (5.7-mile) individual time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto.

"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 crossed the finish line tomorrow," said Tinkoff-Saxo team director Philippe Mauduit. "Roman is in a good position as well and if he can finish second overall, it would be a major achievement for us."

Spanish Vuelta champion Chris Horner withdrew before the stage began due to tendinitis in his left Achilles' tendon. He was 11th overall.

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