Cavendish denied stage but edges ahead in points competition

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Stage 18: San Vito di Cadore - Vedelago 139km
24 May 2012 |
Report: Team Sky

Team Sky's Mark Cavendish was runner up to Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini) in a sprint finish to the 18th stage of the Giro d'Italia in Vedelago.

The world champion had battled his way through some tough mountain stages to the last sprint stage of the race as he aimed to strengthen his grip on the red points jersey.

And inside the final kilometre he looked to be in pole position as Geraint Thomas led him out but Guardini was tracking him just behind and surged past on his right-hand side.

The duo then powered towards the line and it was the Italian who prevailed, with Cavendish taking second and Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela) in third.

Cavendish, who had earlier won the day's intermediate sprint, had the consolation of extending his lead in the points classification to 29 points from Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), with three stages remaining in the battle for the maglia rossa.

With the field finishing together, Rodríguez remains top of the overall standings, 30 seconds in front of Ryder Hesjedal and 1:22 ahead of Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale). Team Sky duo Rigoberto Urán and Sergio Henao are fifth and 10th respectively.

Show of strength

The stage had seen a superb team display from Team Sky, despite the fact they were down to seven men after the withdrawals of Peter Kennaugh and Jeremy Hunt.

With the finish in Vedelago 929 metres below the start in San Vito di Cadore it was always going to be a fast stage - with an average speed of over 49km/h - and a four-man break of Manuele Boaro (Saxo Bank), Stef Clement (Rabobank), Pierpaolo De Negri (Farnese Vini) and Angelo Pagani (Colnago-CSF) got away early but were never allowed to open up a lead much over three minutes.

That was closed down in eyecatching fashion by Team Sky as the intermediate sprint point approached after 84km at Cesiomaggiore, reeling the break in with a kilometre remaining to tee up Cavendish for the maximum eight-point haul.

A second four-man break then went clear after that point, with Clement again featuring, this time along with Mickaël Delage (FDJ-BigMat), Olivier Kaisen (Lotto-Belisol) and Martijn Keizer (Vacansoleil-DCM).

But with Team Sky's Ian Stannard almost single-handedly driving the peloton, their advantage was capped at a minute and gradually brought back as the closing stages approached.

When it was all back together Stannard and Juan Antonio Flecha continued to drill it on the front before Saxo Bank moved en masse to take over the pacesetting in the closing 3km.

Bernhard Eisel and Thomas then took Cavendish well inside the flamme rouge before the all-out sprint for the line from around 200 metres out.

A very different test awaits over the next two days with an epic double-header back in the mountains to sort out the general classification, starting with Friday's 198km trek from Treviso to Alpe di Pampeago/Val du Fiemme.

Stage 18 result
1 Andrea Guardini (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia
2 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky Procycling
3 Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Androni Giocattoli
4 Robert Hunter (RSA) Garmin - Barracuda
5 Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) Team Saxo Bank
6 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan
7 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha Team
8 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
9 Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat
10 Dennis Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team

General classification after stage 18
1 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team 77:47:38
2 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Barracuda 0:00:30
3 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:01:22
4 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:01:36
5 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:02:56
6 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team 0:03:04
7 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox 0:03:19
8 Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:04:13
9 Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:04:38
10 Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling 0:04:42