Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) took his second stage victory of this year’s Giro d’Italia in Ravenna this afternoon, narrowly beating Team Sky’s Davide Appollonio and arch-rival Alessandro Petacchi.
Cavendish, who is expected to pull out of the race this evening, was helped by a textbook performance by his team-mates, although a fast-finish by Appollonio nearly spoilt their good work.
A large crash 1.5km from the finish resulted in a small group of less than 20 riders contesting what is likely to be the final bunch sprint finish in this year’s Giro.
Race leader Alberto Contador was held up in the aftermath of the fall, which began when Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF Inox) overshot a tight bend while in second wheel.
This triggered a crash further down the peloton, with RadioShack’s Robbie Hunter one of the unlucky ones to come off.
Coming as it did within the final 3km, all riders in the group at that time will be awarded the same as Cavendish.
Perfect day for Cav
Barely a hill lined the 184km stage, which started in Castefidardo and headed north along the Adriatic coast to Ravenna, once the capital city of the Western Roman Empire.
After just 7km of racing, Michal Golas (Vacansoleil), Stef Clement (Rabobank), Davide Ricci Bitti (Farnese Vini) and Miguel Minguez Ayala (Euskaltel) broke clear, gaining some three minutes advantage in a short space of time.
At one point it seemed like the peloton were going to reel them in significantly earlier than anticipated, but, fearing counter-attacks, the four-man group were left to fight a losing battle for a little longer.
Yesterday’s stage winner John Gadret (Ag2r-La Mondiale) fell with some 45km remaining, as the stage fell into a rather tiresome lull for those watching.
The escapees were reeled in with just over 10km remaining, and a tricky run in to Ravenna saw Cavendish, Petacchi and the GC contenders all keen to stay upfront and out of trouble.
Cav could be seen screaming out the orders to his trusty lead-out train, most notably before the tight left-hand bend that Modolo overjudged.
The Brit’s loyal servant, Mark Renshaw, had to take evasive action to avoid falling off, and with those behind less fortunate, the peloton was reduced to a fraction of its size.
Cavendish was continuously studying Petacchi’s movements, even after launching his sprint.
Seemingly unbeknown to him, Sky’s young Italian sprinter Appollonio was finishing strongly to his right-hand side, and nearly pulled off the biggest win of his career.
Instead it was the Manxman who stood on the podium once again; his seventh individual victory in Italy’s biggest race.
Giro d’Italia 2011, stage 12: Castelfidardo-Ravenna, 184km
1. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Highroad in 4-17-25
2. Davide Appollonio (Ita) Team Sky
3. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-ISD
4. Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Androni Giocattoli
5. Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Quick Step
6. Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Liquigas
7. Manuel Belletti (Ita) Colnago CSF-Inox
8. Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM
9. Mark Renshaw (Aus) HTC-Highroad
10. Manuel Cardoso (Por) RadioShack all at st
General classification after stage 12
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank-Sungard in 44-15-16
2. Kanstantin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad at 59 secs
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 1-21
4. Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Garmin-Cervelo at 1-28
5. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD at 1-28
6. David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Movistar at 1-37
7. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Astana at 1-41
8. Jose Serpa (Col) Androni Giocattoli at 1-47
9. Dario Cataldo (Ita) Quickstep at 2-21
10. Matteo Carrara (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM at 2-21
Race leader Alberto Contador
Mark Cavendish takes win number two at the 2011 Giro
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Giro d’Italia 2011: Stage reports
Giro d’Italia 2011: Photo galleries
Stage 11 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage seven photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
Giro d’Italia 2011: Live text coverage
Giro d’Italia 2011: Start list
Giro d’Italia 2011: TV schedule