Mark Cavendish claims maglia rosa on opening stage of the 2013 Giro d'Italia

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British Cycling Olympic Podium Programme rider Mark Cavendish took the opening stage of the 2013 Giro d’Italia, claiming the maglia rosa in a tight sprint from Cannondale’s Elia Viviani. It was mission accomplished for Bradley Wiggins too, who managed to avoid disaster after a crash in the final kilometre split the peloton, the Team Sky leader finishing safely in the bunch 18 seconds back.

The opening stage of the 2013 Giro broke with tradition, dispensing with the prologue time trial and opting for a road stage around Naples. Riders faced four laps of the undulating 16.4 kilometre Posillipo circuit before a further eight laps of the eight kilometre city centre circuit, both circuits hugging the glorious bay of Naples, glistening in the early summer sunshine.

The race was animated from the outset, with a break going away after just a handful of kilometres. Comprising Cameron Wurf (Cannondale Pro Cycling), Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Guillaume Bonnafond (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Marco Canola (Bardiani Valvole), Ricardo Mestre (Euskaltel), Brian Bulgac (Lotto-Belisol) and Martijn Keizer (Vacansoleil-DCM), the break quickly established a two minute lead, with Wurf and Visconti contesting the early KoM points on the 4th category Via Francesco Petrarca. Wurf eventually went clear and his breakaway companions were mopped up by the peloton, headed by Mark Cavendish’s Omega Pharma Quick Step squad, as the race quit the opening circuit and headed onto eight flat laps of the Naples waterfront circuit.

Bradley Wiggins, flanked by his Team Sky colleagues, also stayed close to the head of the peloton throughout the 130km stage, his main objective for the day to avoid the numerous incidents that blighted the grande partenza for some riders, notably Wiggins’ countryman Alex Dowsett, whose Grand Tour debut didn’t go according to the script. The British Cycling Olympic Podium Programme athlete, riding for Movistar, went down with a handful of riders with around 90 kilometres to go. Dowsett was unhurt and, after a bike change, was on his way again.

“The sprinters who win are the ones who can sprint in the red zone. 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.”

Mark Cavendish

As the laps ticked down, Wurf’s lead was slowly chipped away and with just 18 kilometres to go the race was back together for a bunch sprint. With 10 kilometres to go Omega Pharma Quick Step began to string out the bunch around the tight street circuit as the big teams began to amass at the head of the race. As the riders took the bell for the final lap, Orica GreenEdge took up the pace early, attempting to set up their top sprinter, Matt Goss. Goss’ team’s attack disrupted the organisation of the big teams and forced a split in the peloton, with a crash in the bunch causing further mayhem.

Thankfully, Cavendish found himself in the lead group but without full team support, just team mate Gert Steegmans, who then had gear problems with under 500 metres to go, leaving Cavendish having to close a gap and fight it out alone. The manxman duly delivered though, outpacing Cannondale Pro Cycling’s Elia Viviani to take the stage victory and the maglia rosa. British rider Adam Blythe, riding for BMC Racing, finished a creditable seventh.

Speaking to Eurosport after the race a relieved Cavendish said; “It was difficult, it was not an easy stage with all the corners – accelerating, it suited a crit rider you know. The team did incredible to stay at the front. We didn’t get it quite so right in the end. Again mechanical problems in the last kilometre, it’s happened too many times for us.”

“The sprinters who win are the ones who can sprint in the red zone. 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.”

The race moves onto the small island of Ischia in the bay of Naples for the 17km Team Time Trial, the first opportunity for Bradley Wiggins and his team to assert their authority on the 2013 Giro d’Italia.

Stage Result

1 CAVENDISH Mark Omega Pharma - Quick-Step
2 VIVIANI Elia Cannondale Pro Cycling Team
3 BOUHANNI Nacer Equipe Cycliste FDJ
4 NIZZOLO Giacomo RadioShack - Leopard
5 GOSS Matthew Orica GreenEDGE
6 VENTOSO ALBERDI Francisco José Movistar Team
7 BLYTHE Adam BMC Racing Team
8 HOWARD Leigh Orica GreenEDGE
9 HONDO Danilo RadioShack - Leopard
10 LANCASTER Brett Orica GreenEDGE
58 DOWSETT Alex Movistar Team
64 WIGGINS Bradley Sky Procycling
176 CUMMINGS Stephen BMC Racing Team
204 MILLAR David Garmin - Sharp

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