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Mark Cavendish sprints to sensational farewell Giro d’Italia stage win in Rome

The British champion, aided by an impromptu lead out from Geraint Thomas, convincingly beat Alex Kirsch to secure the 17th Giro stage win of his career

Mark Cavendish waved goodbye to the Giro d’Italia in the perfect fashion in front of the Colosseum in Rome this afternoon, bursting off the wheel of Fernando Gaviria to take an emphatic, convincing victory and continue his run of winning a stage at every Giro he’s started during his long, illustrious career.

The 38-year-old British champion, who announced his intention to retire from the sport at the end of 2023 during a rest day press conference earlier this week, was aided in the closing kilometres by former teammate, and second place overall at this Giro, Geraint Thomas, who gestured towards Cavendish before helping tee up arguably cycling’s greatest ever sprinter for a fitting, and emotional, farewell to a race at which he’s enjoyed so much success over the years.

> Mark Cavendish confirms he will retire at end of season

That impromptu acceleration by Ineos Grenadiers leader Thomas – who lost the pink jersey in devastating fashion to Primož Roglič in yesterday’s decisive mountain time trial – proved crucial in stringing out the peloton heading into the final kilometre and, perhaps inadvertently, provided British fans with echoes of yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins’ own lead out for Cavendish on the Champs-Élysées at the 2012 Tour de France.

“I was just there, and I saw he only had Luis León [Sánchez] with him, and I thought I’d help a brother out,” Thomas told GCN’s Adam Blythe at the finish.

Mark Cavendish hugs Geraint Thomas after winning stage 21 of 2023 Giro d'Italia (GCN)

But, unlike that 2012 Tour, the Astana sprinter was still left with plenty to do in the closing stages over the harsh Roman cobbles.

As has been the case throughout a Giro where Cavendish has undoubtedly got stronger but the depth of his sprint train has continued to be called into question, the 38-year-old was forced to bounce between wheels, first settling on the in-form Jonathan Milan before latching onto a characteristically early launch from Movistar’s Gaviria.

The Colombian may have set him up perfectly, but Cavendish’s speed – a timely throwback to the acceleration synonymous with his earlier, dominant days – was undeniable.

At the end of an emphatic sprint that could have taken place during any of his 16 previous successes in Italy, as a crash took out Pascal Ackermann behind, the Manx Missile had the time and distance over his rivals to look around and reflect on a long and fruitful relationship with the Giro d’Italia, one which has now been capped in the most fitting fashion.

And anyone hoping that Cavendish can use the momentum generated by a tough and ultimately successful Giro, as he aims to sign off at the Tour with that elusive record-breaking stage win can, will be buoyed by his typically feisty answer to a question posed during the post-race winner’s interview.

When it was noted that today’s victory was Cavendish’s first win of 2023, the British champion cuttingly replied, “You’ve always got to put a negative thing on every question, don’t you? Like a little pessimistic thing, it’s my first win.”

Nevertheless, the 38-year-old conceded, again in typical Cavendish style, that he was “super happy” with the showpiece stage win in Rome.

“It was a long, hard slog to get to the end of the Giro, but we’ve come close a couple of times before. And my boys did incredible, and my friends did incredible. I just had some great friends today,” he said, a thinly veiled reference to Thomas’ shift on the front in the final kilometres.

“It’s pretty emotional to be fair. My first grand tour win was in 2008 at the Giro – to win here in Rome, it’s beautiful. That’s a bucket list sprint to do, outside the Colosseum. I’m so happy.”

As well as providing a fitting finale to Cavendish’s 15-year-long history with the Corsa Rosa, today’s Friends Reunited special in Rome, and the emotional celebrations which followed, may also go at least some way to softening the blow suffered by Thomas during yesterday’s shock and awe display by Roglič on Monte Lussari.

> Heartbreak for Geraint Thomas as Primož Roglič seals sensational Giro d’Italia win despite dropping chain during dramatic time trial

That dramatic denouement saw the Jumbo-Visma star – the victim, of course, of a strikingly similar raid at the 2020 Tour – wrest the pink jersey off the shoulders of the shellshocked Welshman, despite Thomas arguably not putting a foot wrong throughout the tumultuous, chaotic three weeks of this year’s especially grim Giro.

“It’s been good, it’s been emotional,” the 37-year-old said at the finish. “I had to stop reading text messages yesterday as I was starting to well up. It’s been a great race, the boys have been an amazing team. I really enjoyed it. I might be 37, but I feel at least 27.”

Meanwhile, over in London, British cycling’s 2012 nostalgia party continued, as Lizzie Deignan continued her streak of securing podium places on the Mall by following up that Olympic silver medal from 11 years ago with third on GC at the RideLondon Classique, her second stage race since returning to the peloton just over a month ago following the birth of her second child last year.

Team DSM’s Charlotte Kool, again lead out to perfection by Pfeiffer Georgi, secured the overall title with her second win of the race in a tight sprint, while yesterday’s stage winner Chloé Dygert’s second place earned her enough bonus seconds to leapfrog Deignan on the podium.

“I was pretty nervous the whole day long and it was very hectic, very stressful. I stayed upright and to be honest that’s a win for me today,” Deignan, who finished 17th on today’s stage around central London, said. “My son is only eight months old and it’s been a whirlwind.”

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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peted76 | 4 months ago

The synchronicity for Cav winning in Rome in his last year is glorious..  if that's his last Grand Tour win it's wonderful.. if he can pull off another masterclass in France in a month or so.. well.. we'll have to make up some more superlatives for him. 

lio | 4 months ago

When you see a sprint like that you have to wonder why Cav is retireing.

It's crazy that he's struggle so much over the last few years to convince tems just to give him a chance, even when he's been winning races against the best sprinters in the world.

Anyway, I hope he enjoys what ever he does next.  I'm glad he'll be able to spend more time with his kids as they grow up.


Miller replied to lio | 4 months ago

There's a lot of negativity around Cav, for whatever reason. Plenty are willing to say he only wins because of his leadout, or because he's in Lefevre's team, or because other supposedly better sprinters aren't there. What I noticed yesterday though was how many of his fellow pros were queuing up to congratulate him. That says something.

Roulereo replied to Miller | 4 months ago

English middle class are the most negative and self loathing people, perceived white guilt is crippling the country. It makes sense that its greatest cyclist would suffer negative views. He has battled so many issues like this and against competitors on the bike, negotiated through team politics, succeeded in a number of disciplines, while still being the best sprinter we have seen this decade or more. This sprint was as good as you would see. 

He leaves as a legend. 

ErnieC | 4 months ago

Good sprint for sure. Anybody know who came down in the crash and who caused it?

Rendel Harris replied to ErnieC | 4 months ago
1 like
ErnieC wrote:

Good sprint for sure. Anybody know who came down in the crash and who caused it?

It looked like Ackermann was trying to cut across Milan (who had already given up) to get onto the riders behind Cav, clipped Milan's front wheel with his back, slid right into the barriers where a Green Project Bardiani rider hit him and went down, then his bike (without him) unfortunately bounced right back across the width of the road and took two or three others out. Everyone got up and crossed the line though so hopefully no major damage to anyone. It didn't affect the result except for minor placings, Cav was already several lengths ahead when it happened.

Simon E replied to Rendel Harris | 4 months ago
Rendel Harris wrote:

Cav was already several lengths ahead when it happened.

He was several lengths ahead of the next rider, never mind anyone else!


Rendel Harris replied to Simon E | 4 months ago
1 like

Aye - I meant "of the field" rather than "of the incident"!

Flintshire Boy | 4 months ago
1 like




Come on you Cav!



Rendel Harris | 4 months ago

Well well (translation: bugger me with a fishfork!). I hoped Cav would put up a good show today but really thought he'd be good for top five at best. Seeing G lead him out like that will now take its place up there in my Pantheon of British cycling memories alongside Wiggins leading Cav out on the Champs in 2012. Magnificent. No reason he can't do that on one stage in the Tour now and seal the outright record.

Flintshire Boy replied to Rendel Harris | 4 months ago




'Wiggins leading Cav out on the Champs in 2012' has got to be just about the best bit of cycling film ever.


Miller replied to Rendel Harris | 4 months ago

That G turn from 2km to 1km was something to boggle at, wasn't it. Cav was magnificent, the others especially Milan surprisingly faded. Lovely ending to the Giro and a result that sprinters headed to the Tour will take note of.

Clem Fandango | 4 months ago

F*CK. Yeah!

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