Mark Cavendish recorded a career milestone at the Giro d’Italia sprinting to his 100th win yesterday and could add to that tally as early as today.
A clearly pleased Cavendish praised his Omega Pharma-QuickStep team-mates at a post-race press conference after they caught a break within the final 500m of the race and delivered the Manxman to the line.
Cycling Weekly understands the former world champion is to be presented with a bike to commemorate the achievement in London at the end of May.
“It’s quite a milestone. I’ve been looking forward to it,” Cavendish said.
“I’m really happy I could do it here at the Giro d’Italia and more importantly I’m happy that we could do it in the way we did. The guys took control in quite a hard stage, from the beginning to the end, and they rode out of their skins.”
Journalists were informed the press conference would have to be short because of a long transfer.
Stage 13 has been classified as flat although does feature a series of punchy climbs toward the finish of the 254km trek, which may not suit the pure sprinters as much as other fast-men.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep, with some assistance from pink jersey Vincenzo Nibali’s Astana team, controlled much of yesterday’s 134km run that was animated by cold and constant rain. The break was not afforded a time advantage much over three minutes.
“I’m more proud of how we did it,” Cavendish said of the win.
“We’ve come under a lot of criticism this year as a team in the sprints and in this race. We came here with intentions of winning every sprint and we haven’t just won every sprint, we’ve done it quite convincingly.”
Cavendish was gasping for air past the finish line, saliva stringing from his mouth as he briefly leaned against a barrier to compose himself.
“I had to go all the way but I didn’t sense them either side,” he said of rivals in the dash to the line.
“I knew the wind was coming from the left. We had to start the sprint on the left though because we couldn’t brake, so I had to drift right and hopefully get the guys coming in the wind on the right.
“I was happy because I didn’t sense anybody at all. I didn’t want to celebrate though because of the [weather] conditions, so just lifted one arm.”
Grand Tour stages comprise much of Cavendish’s century.
The 27-year-old recorded his first Tour de France stage win in Chateauroux in 2008 and five years later that total is 23 and counting.
Cavendish’s victory yesterday was his third at this year’s Giro bringing his career total there to 13, and at the Vuelta a Espana three.
“When I first started winning was a bonus. Now anything but the win is a loss. That really changes not just my perception of things, but the team’s,” he reflected.
“That’s how it is now and that’s probably the thing that changes your mentality most. It shows you’re doing something right. It’s better to be in that position than a position where you are less successful.”
Cavendish, team manager Patrick Lefevere and some media outlets have at times been critical of the outfit’s disorganisation in the final kilometres of early season races, after otherwise good work.
But, with the benefit of time, it is all coming together in Italy.
“Controlling the final, it could have been easy to get carried away and leave me alone too soon,” Cavendish said.
“They didn’t do that today, they really rode with their heads and more so they rode with their hearts. That’s what I asked for. That’s what’s made me proud of this Giro.”
Buy Cycling Weekly magazine next Thursday for a Cavendish 100 wins feature that includes interviews with Brian Holm, Rod Ellingworth, Rolf Aldag, Mark Renshaw and Bernhard Eisel, plus opinion from CW journalists.
Giro d’Italia 2013: Previews and race info
Giro d’Italia 2013: Stage reports
Giro d’Italia 2013: Photo galleries
Photos by Graham Watson