AREZZO, Italy (AP) -- Peter Sagan showed off his uphill sprinting skills to win the third stage of the weeklong Tirreno-Adriatico race and Michal Kwiatkowski took the overall lead on Friday.
Former world champion Philippe Gilbert appeared headed for victory until Sagan surged ahead of him and a handful of others about 25 meters (yards) before the line.
"I got excited when I saw this stage was in the race," Sagan said. "I wanted to do well and it went great."
Sagan, a Slovak who rides for Cannondale, took more than 5 hours on the 212-kilometer (132-mile) leg from Cascina to the Tuscan town of Arezzo.
The stage concluded on an 11-kilometer (7-mile) circuit that featured a short uphill finish, with the last 900 meters at a 5 percent gradient.
It was Sagan's second victory of the season, having won a stage in the Tour of Oman last month, and the 57th of his career -- many of them on stages similar to this one with short, uphill finishes.
Kwiatkowski, a Pole with Omega Pharma-Quick Step, finished second and Simon Clarke of Australia was third, both with the same time as Sagan. Gilbert placed fourth.
Kwiatkowski, who won the Tour of Algarve last month, took a 10-second lead over Colombian teammate and Giro d'Italia runner-up Rigoberto Uran.
Stage 4 on Saturday is the race's toughest, a 244-kilometer (152-mile) leg from Indicatore to Cittareale Selvarotonda that features several climbs, including a long, grueling uphill finish. Overall contenders Alberto Contador and Nairo Quinta will be expected to fare well.
The race ends on Tuesday with an individual time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto.
Many riders, like Sagan, are using the race as a warmup for the Milan-San Remo classic on March 23.
"I hope so," Sagan said when asked if this win boosted his credentials for San Remo. "We've now entered a very important part of the season."