World road champion Mark Cavendish (C) celebrates winning second stage [EPA] 

World champion Mark Cavendish won Thursday's second stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico over 230km from Vincenzo to Indicatore in just over six and a half hours.

The British Sky rider beat Spain's Oscar Freire and Tyler Farrar of the United States in a sprint finish.

Australian Matthew Goss, whose GreenEdge team won Wednesday's opening stage team time trial, retained the overall leader's jersey.

Cavendish, who recorded his fourth victory of the season, was fortunate to be in the leading group around two kilometres from the end when a crash in the middle of the peloton brought around 100 riders to a standstill.

The stage was riden at an almost leisurely pace before accelerating markedly towards the end.

Italian pair Stefano Pirazzi, of Colnago, and Farnese's Diego Caccia spent 200km off the front but never managed to eke out more than an eight-minute gap and were comfortably chased down by GreenEdge.

The crash left a group of about 70 riders to compete for the stage win with Farrar launching the sprint only for the Manxman to come speeding past to snatch victory.

Friday's third stage takes the peloton over 178km from Indicatore to Terni in the race of the 'Two Seas'.

Lighter and faster

Dutchman Lieuwe Westra of Vacansoleil capped an impressive climbing display with victory in the fifth stage of
Paris-Nice between Rodez and Mende on Thursday and credited his form to his new slim-line look.

Britain's Bradley Wiggins, third at 6sec, just behind Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, retained the race leader's jersey with a 6sec lead now on Westra as American Levi Leipheimer dropped to third at 10.

"It's a great day in my career. Winning a stage of the Paris-Nice, it's fantastic," said Westra.

"I am climbing better and am lighter in weight having gone from 72 to 68 kilos over the last year"

Dutchman Lieuwe Westra

"I wasn't doing very well at the start of the season, but over the last few days I have been performing a lot better. I am climbing better and am lighter in weight having gone from 72 to 68 kilos over the last year.

"As I am living in Spain, I can train in the mountains. I felt fine on the last climb and after the last kilometre, I decided to take my opportunity."

Westra added that he is also eyeing the winner's yellow jersey.

"Yes, of course. Perhaps it's possible to do it. But I have no regrets, the stage today has pleased me."

Sky rider Wiggins said his form was affected by the conditions.

"It was a terrible day with the cold," said the Briton.

"My teammates Richie Porte and Rigoberto Uran did some amazing work. Today, we probably had the toughest day. It wasn't my kind of climb, but I worked a lot in the winter for these situations."

The race concludes near Nice on Sunday.

Source: Agencies