Mark Cavendish has won Stage 6 of the 2013 Giro d'Italia in Margherita di Savoia, his second of this year's race, with Cannondale's Elia Viviani second and Matt Goss of Orica-GreenEdge third on a stage tailor-made for the sprinters that turned out to provide yet another dramatic day's racing. By taking the stage, Cavendish makes it back into the red jersey of points classification leader.
For what must have seemed a heart-stopping few minutes for Team Sky, Sir Bradley Wiggins' Giro challenge seemed set to suffer a blow as he - together with most of the peloton - was held up behind a big crash.
However, the 40 or so riders up the road declined to benefit from their rivals' misfortune, the group coming back together ahead of the final kilometres and inevitable bunch sprint. The stage ended with no change on GC, with Katusha's Luca Paolini retaining the maglia rosa.
Today marked the second anniversary of Wouter Weylandt’s death when the Belgian, then with RadioShack-Leopard, crashed during a descent on Stage 3 of the 2011 race.
His sole Giro stage win had come the previous year in the colours of Quick Step, Cavendish’s win today for the Belgian team, which he dedicated to Weylandt, thereby providing a fitting tribute.
Although he is back in the red points jersey, Cavendish told Italy's RAI TV after the stage that he doesn't think it will be possible to take it all the way to the end of the race in Brescia, given the few opportunities for sprinters in this year's race.
Last year, Cavendish was pipped to the points jersey on the penultimate day by Joaquim Rodriguez of Katusha, who had taken it almost by accident as he sought to defend his GC lead.
That leaves Cavendish, who has won the points classification at both the Tour de France and the Vuelta, still waiting to become just the fifth man to have claimed a full set from all three Grand Tours.
The main drama of today’s stage came as Wiggins chased back on after a puncture with around 33 kilometres to go as he found himself caught behind a big crash that took place on the first passage of the finish line.
Some 40 riders, including maglia rosa Paolini and defending champion Ryder Hesjedal of Garmin-Sharp, had avoided that crash and were clear away up the road while the tangle of bikes and riders was still being unravelled behind them.
To their credit, however, Katusha, who had numbers in the front group, knocked off the pace and Wiggins, who together with dozens of other riders including most of his Sky team mates, had been held up by well over a minute, was able to rejoin the front group within the next ten kilometres.
The riders who seemed to come off worst in that incident were Movistar’s Giovanni Visconti and Orica GreenEdge’s Leigh Howard, both of whom continued to receive attention from race medical staff within the cavalcade of cars following the peloton.
Shortly beforehand, there had been another crash as the riders headed towards the 16.3km closing circuit, to be lapped twice, this one involving riders including Movistar’s Juan Jose Cobo and AG2R’s Domenico Pozzovivo.
Wiggins was taking absolutely no chances, leading the group into the final 3 kilometres before the sprinters’ teams moved to the fore to try and set their men up for the finale, Cavendish getting a great leadout from Gert Steegmans and holding off his rivals for the win.
Today’s 169km stage took the peloton up the Adriatic Coast from Mola di Bari to the town of Margherita di Savoia, named after the same queen of Italy who lent her name to perhaps the quintessential pizza, and also home to Europe’s biggest saltworks.
Shortly before entering that closing circuit, which had some narrow roads and tight corners, the two riders who had formed the day’s break, Jack Bobridge of Blanco and fellow Australian Cameron Wurf – the latter spent much of the opening stage in Naples out on his own – had been swept up.
The race was heading towards the bunch sprint that ended with the victory of the red-hot favourite for the stage win today, but not before those few anxious moments for Cavendish’s former team mate, Wiggins.
Tomorrow brings the first week of this year’s Giro to a close with what looks like a very tough stage to Pescara with a number of short and sharp climbs, ahead of an individual time trial on Saturday that should result in a big shake-up in the general classification.
Giro d'Italia Stage 6 result 1 CAVENDISH Mark OPQ 03:56:03 2 VIVIANI Elia CAN All at same time 3 GOSS Matthew OGE 4 BOUHANNI Nacer FDJ 5 GAVAZZI Mattia AND 6 BELLETTI Manuel ALM 7 APPOLLONIO Davide ALM 8 NIZZOLO Giacomo RLT 9 BRESCHEL Matti TST 10 FERRARI Roberto LAM 11 AVILA Edwin COL 12 DE HAES Kenny LTB 13 BLYTHE Adam BMC 14 KEISSE Iljo OPQ 15 TAMOURIDIS Ioannis EUS 16 PIRAZZI Stefano BAR 17 VENTOSO Francisco MOV 18 DEGENKOLB John ARG 19 JEANNESSON Arnold FDJ 20 BRUTT Pavel KAT Overall Standings after Stage 6 1 PAOLINI Luca KAT 23:52:42 2 URAN Rigoberto SKY 00:17 3 INTXAUSTI Benat MOV 00:26 4 NIBALI Vincenzo AST 00:31 5 HESJEDAL Ryder GRS 00:34 6 WIGGINS Bradley SKY 00:34 7 CARUSO Giampaolo KAT 00:36 8 HENAO Sergio SKY 00:37 9 SANTAMBROGIO Mauro VIN 00:39 10 EVANS Cadel BMC 00:42
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.