Stage 13: Busseto to Cherasco, 254km
Mark Cavendish isn’t a man who hangs around. Having celebrated his 100th victory on the Giro’s shortest day yesterday, on today’s longest stage he wasted no time in adding to his tally as he taught his rivals another lesson in the art of sprinting to take his total to 101.
Cavendish’s fourth win in this Giro – and his 40th all-time in grand tours – was far from routine, however. His team worked hard to chase down a seven-man break which at one stage held a 12-minute advantage. They shepherded a spritely-looking Cavendish over the difficult small climbs towards the end. And when they dropped away, exhausted, in the closing kilometres, their star man looked after himself, unperturbed as Katusha’s Giampaolo Caruso flew off solo ahead of a slightly disorganised bunch, to be caught with 1,500 metres to go.
First Orica-GreenEDGE and then Cannondale led out in the final kilometre, but Cavendish asserted his position and waited patiently half a dozen lengths off the front before starting his sprint over 250 metres out. Giacomo Nizzolo (RadioShack-Leopard) pulled to within half a length, but after over six hours in the saddle Cav had the strength to prevail. Luka Mezgec (Argos-Shimano) was third for the second straight day.
All the main contenders finished safely in the bunch, with no change at the top of the GC.
VeloVoices rider of the day
I’m tempted to honour the entire OPQS team, who worked tirelessly for six hours to bring things back together so that Cavendish could deliver the goods in the final 15 seconds.
However, I’m going to recognise the achievements of Argos-Shimano’s Luka Mezgec, who has taken on the mantle of de facto team leader after the retirement of John Degenkolb. The 24-year-old Slovenian is in his first year at WorldTour level, having won five stages at the two-week Tour of Qinghai Lake last year. Third both yesterday and today ahead of other notable youngsters such as Elia Viviani marks him out as one to watch for the future.
Opinion & analysis
Given the length of this stage and the lumpy nature of its final hour, the breakaway specialists and classics hard men will have been disappointed at their inability to shake off Cavendish and avoid a bunch sprint. But OPQS rode with strength and determination, and Cavendish showed he has now found his climbing legs, as he never looked in serious difficulty.
It was unusual to see him go for a long-range sprint, but this is the second time in this Giro (after stage one) where he has started his charge from a very long way back and shown that he has great strength to complement his unquestioned speed.
Cavendish now leads Cadel Evans in the points competition by 35 points, 108-73. Although he may have to wait until the final stage for the opportunity for another win, if he can get over the Alps – the possible cancellation of Sunday’s Galibier finish would certainly benefit him – then he may just risk the additional fatigue and stick out the final week in an attempt to complete the hat-trick of grand tour points jerseys. Last year he lost the red jersey to Joaquim Rodriguez by a single point. The odds are against him, but all it will take is a couple of successful breakaway groups in the coming mountain stages – a distinct possibility – to tip the balance back in his favour.
Stage 13 result
1. Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) 6:09:55
2. Giacomo Nizzolo (RadioShack-Leopard) same time
3. Luka Mezgec (Argos-Shimano) s/t
4. Brett Lancaster (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t
5. Manuel Belletti (Ag2r La Mondiale) s/t
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 52:38:09
2. Cadel Evans (BMC) +0:41
3. Rigoberto Uran (Sky) +2:04
4. Robert Gesink (Blanco) +2:12
5. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) +2:13
6. Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) +2:55
7. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) +3:35
8. Benat Intxausti (Movistar) +4:05
9. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) +4:17
10. Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff) +4:21
Link: Official website