Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) not only won the Giro d’Italia stage to Margherita di Savoia today in southern Italy, but also other teams’ respect.
“Cavendish is an example of fair play, what he and the team did, including DS Brian Holm was correct,” Sky’s team principal, David Brailsford told Cycling Weekly.
Speaking to other journalists later, Brailsford added, “You could see straight away that Omega Pharma understood the situation and the ethics of fair play. They were riding, but they weren’t racing. They deserve a lot of credit in my opinion for that.”
GC favourite, Bradley Wiggins (Sky) was caught behind with several other classification riders due to a crash at 33 kilometres remaining. In the chaos that followed, riders shot to the front and formed a powerful group that threatened to see Wiggins lose precious time.
Katusha rode with GC leader Luca Paolini before FDJ took over. It appeared they were trying to split the group permanently before Omega Pharma called a cease-fire.
“We were just controlling the race, we weren’t riding full-on and our aim certainly wasn’t to drop Wiggins given that we don’t have a man for general classification,” FDJ’s Frédéric Guesdon explained. “We were only there for the sprint.”
Wiggins was riding at the back when the crash happened. He just re-entered after a bike change. A previous incident saw a rider ride into, and cause problems for, his rear derailleur.
Danny Pate, Salvatore Puccio, Xabier Zandio rotated through for Wiggins after the crash. Following an 11-kilometre pursuit, at 22 kilometres out, they re-gained contact with the lead group.
Wiggins went immediately to the front. From five to three kilometres out, Wiggins rode on the front. He safely navigated the corner where the crash happened on the previous circuit and turned the race over to Cavendish and the sprinters.
Cavendish finished off the job thanks to Gert Steegmans’ lead-out. After the win, he explained that he saw no foul play.
“There were teams up there riding, but they weren’t going full gas,” Cavendish said. “I’ll stick up for every team out there. There was talk about carrying on riding, but…”
He paused and added that if he was caught out, the sprint teams would have tried to put him in further danger.
“I don’t think would wait for me if I crashed. I lost the pink jersey the other year because of that in 2009,” he added. “Anyway, if it sped up for a sprint there’s no way the teams would’ve got back.”
His sports director, Brian Holm is waiting for a cup of coffee.
“Wiggins owes us a cup of coffee or something,” Holm told Cycling Weekly.
“In that moment, why should we not wait? Wiggins was [caught behind]. It’s a bunch sprint day, not a GC day, and we didn’t have to think that long about it.”