Omar Fraile, winner of the stage 161 kilometres later in Bagno di Romagna, says that Cavendish’s prediction proved correct.
Cavendish is training and recovering from mononucleosis, but could not resist the short visit trip to Florence this morning from his home in Quarrata.
“Mark Cavendish came to the bus to have a laugh with us this morning. We joked about,” Fraile said. “He said to us, ‘It’d be a good day for the team to try for a stage win.’ And voila, look at how it ended!”
Cavendish knows something about the Giro d’Italia having won 15 stages in the Grand Tour. He is now training to get back up to speed in time for the Tour de France.
The South African team aim to continue winning even without Cavendish in their line up. Fraile was always a likely candidate to follow through with its goal given his run ahead of the Giro, finishing second overall in the Tour de Yorkshire.
“I’d marked this stage on my book sometime ago,” Fraile added. “It went perfectly. I made the escape group and then went away with Landa, one of my Basque cycling friends.”
Fraile and Landa were part of a large 25-man group. They gambled early as the Giro entered Emilia Romagna from Tuscany. And doing so, it seemed they would pay when the rest of the escapees pulled them back. But Fraile had something else.
“I kept a good rhythm,” added Fraile. “Even when they rode away, I was able to ride back.”
“We tried to stabilise the situation, we told him to keep it at that tempo in the valley even with the others coming back,” sports director Bingen Fernandez said. “They had the legs to survive and Omar had the legs to win the stage.”
Fraile had the legs to claw his way back even after he lost ground. He rode with Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac) and Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) on the 25 kilometres to Bagno di Romagna. They were joined by Tanel Kangert (Astana).
“I wasn’t sure of winning at all, it was hard,” continued Fraile. “I got it just right.
“It was difficult to go ahead with Rolland on the final climb. I saw Costa was closing the gap. My DS told me to watch Costa and I knew he was fast and cold-blooded in the sprint. He was the wheel to follow into the final.”
One might think that Fraile would sit in, having the others think he was tired from his earlier attempt, instead he went with a long sprint. Cavendish would have been impressed.
“As a sports director, I know that perfection doesn’t always exist,” added Fernandez.
“If it doesn’t exist, then you have to be in perfect form. We were a little concerned, but he had followed the plans all the way through the day and just showed an amazing sprint.”