Mark Cavendish, who yesterday took his 100th professional victory, has wasted no time cracking on with his second century, winning Stage 13 of the Giro d'Italia following a hard-fought sprint in Cherasco. The Omega Pharma-Quck Step rider held off Giacomo Nizzolo of RadioShack-Leopard to cross the line first and take his fourth stage victory in this year's Giro, with Argos Shimano's Luka Mezgec third. In winning today, Cavendish also extends his lead in the points classification.
There was no change at the top of the GC, with Astana's Vincenzo Nibali staying 41 seconds ahead of BMC Racing's Cadel Evans ahead of a pair of big Alpine stages at the weekend, including a summit finish on the Galibier on Sunday.
Cavendish’s victory – his 40th in a Grand Tour, and 14th in the Giro d’Italia – followed a climax to the stage punctuated by a series of attacks as the flat terrain of the Po Valley gave way to the hills of Piedmont around Alba, southeast of Turin.
Afterwards he revealed that he hadn’t initially planned to go for the win today, the decision to work in reeling in the inevitable break and go for the sprint being made on the road by sports director Brian Holm as rival teams Cannondale and Orica-GreenEdge worked to bring the escapees back.
Last year, Cavendish, then riding for Team Sky, completed the Giro but missed out on winning the red jersey by a single point after Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez, riding to defend his GC position rather than pick up points, edged 1 point ahead of him on the final road stage on the race’s penultimate day.
While he has a commanding lead over Evans – himself a past winner of the points classification – the Australian will narrow that gap as the race heads into the mountains, and with some tough climbing stages and limited sprint opportunities remaining, there’s no certainty Cavendish will aim to complete the race.
The route of today’s stage, at 254km the longest of this year's race, largely followed that of Stage 2 of the 2011 Giro from Alba to Parma, albeit in reverse and with changes to the parcours at the start and finish, the latter featuring a series of climbs that while not as tough as the ones encountered in the rain yesterday, still gave hopes that a break might carry the day.
Whereas two years ago the now retired Omega Pharma-Lotto rider, Sebastian Lang, spent almost the entire day alone at the front of the peloton, today it was six riders who managed to get away from the peloton after almost 30km had been raced, a rainy start to the day giving way to rare sunny weather.
Those men were RadioShack’s Danilo Hondo, Movistar’s Pablo Lastras, the Argos Shimano rider Tobias Ludvigsson, Lotto Belisol’s Lars Bak – a stage winner from the break in last year’s Giro – and Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox’s Nicola Boem.
The break was allowed a maximum advantage of around 13 minutes, but that tumbled as the race headed towards the lumpier terrain towards the end of the stage.
With 20km to go, the three remaining escapees – Lastras, Boem and Bak – had an advantage of just three quarters of a minute over the peloton, and as riders including Vini Fantini-Selle Italia’s Marco Rabottini and Oscar Gatto began launching attacks over an uncategorised climb, a new front group of nine riders formed as the race headed into its final 10km.
Movistar’s Lastras tried desperately to organise the move as it went up a final ramp crested around 6km from the finish, with Katusha’s Giampaolo Caruso getting clear and looking to repeat team mate Luca Paolini’s late solo attack to win Stage 3 in Marina di Ascea last week.
With 5km to go, Caruso had a quarter of a minute’s advantage over the peloton, but with the road flattening out and Cannondale now taking up the chase, working for their sprinter Elia Viviani, he was swept up 1.5km from the finish in Cherasco and the sprint where Cavendish again battled to victory.
Today’s stage, the longest of this year’s race, started without three big names – defending champion Ryder Hesjedal of Garmin-Sharp and pre-race favourite Sir Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky, both of whom finally gave in to the illnesses that had hit their GC hopes, as well as FDJ’s Nacer Bouhanni.
The latter, who would ordinarily have been expected to be one of the favourites figure on a stage like this, withdrew from the race yesterday evening shortly after finishing second to Cavendish.
That followed a controversial sprint in which Bouhanni appeared to barge Sacha Modolo of Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox, although moments before the Italian had almost sent the Frenchman crashing into the barriers.
Tomorrow’s Stage 14 covers 168km from Cervere to a summit finish on the Jafferau, with a climb to Sestrire thrown in for good measure, while Sunday features that much anticipated climb of the Galibier.
Giro d'Italia Stage 13 result 1 CAVENDISH Mark Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 06:09:55 2 NIZZOLO Giacomo RadioShack - Leopard All at same time 3 MEZGEC Luka Team Argos - Shimano 4 LANCASTER Brett Orica GreenEDGE 5 VIVIANI Elia Cannondale Pro Cycling 6 BELLETTI Manuel AG2R La Mondiale 7 BENNATI Daniele Team Saxo-Tinkoff 8 POZZATO Filippo Lampre - Merida 9 ROUX Anthony FDJ 10 RUBIANO Miguel Androni - Venezuela 11 HUNTER Robert Garmin - Sharp 12 MARCATO Marco Vacansoleil - DCM 13 MARTENS Paul Blanco Pro Cycling 14 CANOLA Marco Bardiani Valvole - CSF Inox 15 REYNES Vicente Lotto Belisol Team 16 NAVARDAUSKAS Ramunas Garmin - Sharp 17 BOLE Grega Vacansoleil - DCM 18 ROLLIN Dominique FDJ 19 BATTAGLIN Enrico Bardiani Valvole - CSF Inox 20 PAOLINI Luca Katusha Team Overall Standings after Stage 13 1 NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team 52:38:09 2 EVANS Cadel BMC Racing Team 00:41 3 URAN Rigoberto Sky Procycling 02:04 4 GESINK Robert Blanco Pro Cycling 02:12 5 SCARPONI Michele Lampre - Merida 02:13 6 SANTAMBROGIO Mauro Vini Fantini 02:55 7 NIEMIEC Przemyslaw Lampre - Merida 03:35 8 INTXAUSTI Benat Movistar Team 04:05 9 POZZOVIVO Domenico AG2R La Mondiale 04:17 10 MAJKA Rafal Team Saxo-Tinkoff 04:21