Mark Cavendish of Omega Pharma-Quick Step will wear the Giro d’Italia’s maglia rosa in tomorrow’s team time trial on the island of Ischia after winning the opening stage of this year’s race on a sweltering afternoon in Naples. Twice a wearer of the maglia rosa before, it's the first time his taken it after winning an individual stage, and today is his 11th stage victory in the race..
Elia Viviani of of Cannondale came second and FDJ's Nacer Bouhanni third, in a sprint contested by a handful of riders, only 15 managing to avoid being held up after a crash on the final corner around a kilometre and a half out brought down a number of riders and split the field.
Those who came down included Garmin Sharp's David Millar, one of six British riders who took to the start of the 96th edition of the race this afternoon, but since the crash happened within the closing 3km, no-one who hit the deck or was held up will lose time.
Cavendish’s team had toiled all day to ensure the opening day of the race would come down to a bunch finish on the Lungomare Caracciolo, and had been joined at the front by Team Sky, looking to keep Bradley Wiggins out of trouble, and brought back the rider who spent much of the 130km stage out alone in front of the race.
That man was Cameron Wurf of Cannondale, who had got away early on with five other riders early on, as the race headed out to complete four laps of a 16.4km circuit that gave two opportunities to take mountains points at Posillipo, followed by eight laps of a shorter 8km circuit mainly along the seafront.
Ahead of the first categorised climb of this year’s race, Guillaume Bonnafond had attacked the group in a fruitless attempt to take maximum points – those would go to Movistar’s Giovanni Visconti – and Wurf subsequently had a quiet word with him.
It was the Tasmanian himself who got away ahead of the second ascent of the same climb, and Wurf at one point had an advantage of 2 minutes 5 seconds, but that became smaller each time the laps to go counter ticked down, and he was caught with two laps remaining.
The bunch sprint was now inevitable but the control exerted by Sky and Omega Pharma-Quick Step – the latter also had to deal with Jerome Pineau taking a tumble on a tight corner – at the front of the peloton ended as other teams including Cannondale and Orica-GreenEdge started jockeying for position ahead of the finale.
The Australian team had the numbers, but Matt Goss and Leigh Howard were off the pace as Viviani looked set to win, Cavendish having been forced wide by RadioShack-Trek’s Danilo Hondo, working for Giacomo Nizzolo.
The former world champion, who had also lost Gert Steegmans in the leadout with the Belgian having an issue with his gears with 500 metres left, recovered to overhaul Viviani on the line, leaving the Italian beating his handlebars in frustration.
“The sprinters who win are the ones who can sprint in the red zone, reflected Cavendish afterwards.
"I was in the red for most of that. It’s really hot out there. "But I wanted this so bad. My good friend Paul Smith is out there – he designed the jersey and I promised him I’d win the jersey for the first time.”
Giro d'Italia Stage 1 result
1 Mark CAVENDISH OPQ 02:58:38 2 Elia VIVIANI CAN Same time 3 Nacer BOUHANNI FDJ 4 Giacomo NIZZOLO RLT 5 Matthew GOSS OGE 6 Francisco VENTOSO MOV 7 Adam BLYTHE BMC 8 Leigh HOWARD OGE at 3 secs 9 Danilo HONDO RLT 10 Brett LANCASTER OGE at 12 secs 11 John DEGENKOLB ARG at 18 secs18 12 Luca PAOLINI KAT 13 Ioannis TAMOURIDIS EUS 14 Diego ROSA AND 15 Ramunas NAVARDAUSKAS GRS 16 Roberto FERRARI LAM 17 Robert HUNTER GRS 18 Tanel KANGERT AST 19 Marco MARCATO VCD 20 Andrey ZEITS AST
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.