Tirreno blues for Cavendish
Mark Cavendish lost the overall lead of Tirreno-Adriatico as Peter Sagan powered to victory on stage three's uphill sprint finish in Arezzo.
Sagan never looked in danger of being beaten on a finale that seemed perfectly suited to his style and won by two bike lengths from Michal Kwiatkowski in second and Simon Clarke in third.
Kwiatkowski had been lying second overall at the start of the day and now takes over from Cavendish, his fellow Omega Pharma - Quick-Step rider, in the leader's blue jersey after the Briton lost touch with the front group just before the final climb.
Ahead of back-to-back summit finishes in the next two days, Kwiatkowski holds a 10-second advantage at the top of the general classification over second-placed Rigoberto Uran, who is another of his team-mates, with Clarke three seconds further back in third.
Sagan (Cannondale) gained revenge on Kwiatkowski following his defeat to the Polish national champion at Strade Bianche six days ago, and revealed afterwards that he had been targeting stage three.
He said: "Today I am very glad for the win. Thank you to all my team-mates because they put me on the front. It was a very dangerous finish.
"When I saw parcours for Tirreno-Adriatico, this stage was very special and I wanted to be on the front today, and I take another victory. I am very happy."
The 210km stage ended with four laps of an 11km finishing circuit around Arezzo and appeared set to be a duel between sprinters and punchy climbers on a final ascent that reached a maximum gradient of 11 per cent.
Gilbert falls short
Cavendish and rival Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) were already out of the equation by the time the peloton reached the foot of the climb, and in their absence BMC took up station on the front of the bunch as they looked to launch Philippe Gilbert to victory.
The former world champion attacked when the road started to rear up, but Sagan moved quickly into his slipstream and when they arrived on the finishing straight, the Slovakian national champion swiftly surged into an unassailable lead.
Behind him, Kwiatkowski mounted a superb late surge to claim second, and a wilting Gilbert was then edged off the podium by Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge).
Watch highlights of stage three on Sky Sports 4 on Friday night at 10pm (GMT). Repeated the next morning at 9am on Sky Sports 3.