Mark Cavendish won his second Giro stage today with a commanding sprint finish in Margherita de Savoia after finally getting the perfect leadout from his team.
It’s taken a while for the Omega Pharma-QuickStep train to get it right, now they have, there could be no stopping Cavendish.
Gert Steegmans avoided any mechanical difficulties today and stretched out his sprint to drag Cavendish clear of the likes of Nacer Bouhanni, Elia Viviani and Mattia Gavazzi who had previously been trying to disrupt Omega Pharma.
Once Steegmans had hit his stride Cavendish was never going to be beaten. He started his sprint with the others behind him, and it was all they could do to stay on his wheel. They only started to draw up alongside him when he eased off the pedals and put his arms in the air.
It was a textbook sprint, and Cavendish was quick to pay tribute to his team mates. “It’s like having a kit car, a Caterham. When you put it all together it just works. I’m just the last bit, the exhaust, the bit that makes the most noise.” He said straight after the finish.
He also dedicated the win to Wouter Weylandt who crashed and died on this stage two years ago, holding up the number 108 when on the podium. That number, worn by Weylandt on the day he died, has since been retired from the race.
The win is the 98th professional victory of Cavendish’s career and his 12th at the Giro d’Italia. He may not get another chance to add to that tally before stage 12 next Thursday as the hills start to become more of a feature as of tomorrow.
The finish today was a nervous one after a crash in the peloton the first time they went through the finishing straight. It happened in the middle of the peloton on a narrow, barriered section, blocked the road and split the peloton in two.
Many of the overall contenders were caught behind, including Bradley Wiggins who at the time was chasing back on through the cars after a puncture. Those simply held up began to edge through the jumble of bikes and riders in ones and twos and started to chase a lead peloton of around 70 riders.
Initially Katusha had raised the pace, but it didn’t last as a truce was called. It still took Wiggins and his team mates some five kilometres to get back to the leaders. By the time they did, they had around 70 riders sat behind them, getting towed up through the team cars.
A few riders were still off the back, but they were in trouble as the pace shot up when the group reformed. The overall contenders all wanted to be at the front while the sprint teams set about forming their trains.
Blanco, Astana and even Euskaltel all sent a short train of riders to the front to protect their leaders by keeping them out of trouble, but Sky set much of the pace and Wiggins stayed near the front.
With the last two stages obviously still in his mind, Wiggins was not going to leave the front of the peloton until the 3km-to-go point (from which point any time gaps caused by a crash are nullified). The Briton even led the bunch under the 3km-to-go banner before sitting up and drifting back through the bunch.
From there the sprinters’ teams took on the responsibility.
Luca Paolini (Katusha) continues to lead the race overall on a day when the general classification saw no major changes.
Giro d’Italia 2013, stage six: Mola di Bari to Margherita di Savoia, 169km
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-QuickStep in 3-56-03
2. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale
3. Matt Goss (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
4. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ
5. Mattia Gavazzi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli
6. Manuel Belletti (Ita) Ag2r
7. Davide Appollonio (Ita) Ag2r
8. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) RadioShack-Leopard
9. Matti Breschel (Den) Saxo-Tinkoff
10. Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida all same time
Overall classification after stage six
1. Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha in 23-52-42
2. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Sky at 17 secs
3. Benat Intxausti (Spa) Movistar at 26 secs
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 31 secs
5. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp at 34 secs
6. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky at same time
7. Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha at 36 secs
8. Sergio Henao (Col) Sky at 37 secs
9. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini at 39 secs
10. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 42 secs
Escapees Jack Bobridge and Cameron Wurf
Bradley Wiggins gets a wheel change
Mark Cavendish wins his second stage of the 2013 Giro
Mark Cavendish dedicates his stage win to Wouter Weylandt
Giro d’Italia 2013: Previews and race info
Giro d’Italia 2013: Stage reports
Giro d’Italia 2013: Photo galleries
Photos by Graham Watson