Mark Cavendish takes bunch sprint into Margherita di Savoia

Mark Cavendish takes bunch sprint into Margherita di Savoia

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Stage 6 - Mola di Bari - Margherita di Savoia - 169km
9 May 2013
Report: Eddie Allen

Stage six saw British Cycling Olympic Podium Programme athlete Mark Cavendish take his second stage victory of the 2013 Giro d’Italia and with it the maglia rosso points jersey, benefitting from a perfect leadout to take the win after Argos Shimano opened up their sprint too early for stage five winner John Degenkolb. In the general classification battle, Bradley Wiggins once again avoided losing time on his competitors despite getting caught behind a crash with 32km to go.

Stage six, at 169km, was somewhat shorter and much flatter than the preceding day’s stage, racing north along the Adriatic coast before looping inland and heading onto two laps of a 16km circuit around Margherita di Savoia. The finish itself was long, wide and straight, unlike the technical finale of the previous day. Pan flat apart from an undulating section mid stage, the course had ‘pure sprinter’ written all over it and, following his disappointment the previous day, Mark Cavendish and his fellow sprint specialists were keen to take control.

After stage five, Cavendish had dropped into fourth in the points competition thanks to John Degenkofb’s stage five victory, while Sir Bradley Wiggins remained in sixth on the general classification, 34 seconds behind maglia rosa Luca Paolini of Katusha.

An early move saw Jack Bobridge (Blanco) and Cameron Wurf (Cannondale) go up the road and quickly build a handsome lead. With Wurf representing sprinter Elia Viviani’s team, the onus was on Cavendish and the other sprinter’s teams to orchestrate the chase. The Australian pair gained over six minutes at which point the Omega Pharma Quick Step led peloton began to tighten the leash.

Cavendish displayed his intent in the points competition, drag racing against Viviani at the first intermediate sprint through the picturesque streets of Trani. The Italian’s Cannondale team had clearly targeted it, with a quartet of lime green riders clipping off the front with Cavendish giving chase. Team support paid off for Viviani, just pipping the Manxman to the minor points and taking first blood in the sprinters’ battle.

"It’s like when you build a kit car and you start it up. You know that feeling. There are all those bits of the engine that fit together. I’m just the exhaust, I’m just the last thing, the thing that makes the most noise."

Mark Cavendish salutes his team's performance

Following the opening skirmish, the peloton reformed with Cavendish’s team once again setting the pace. The second intermediate sprint in Barletta came quickly, with Viviani once again taking the points for third place, Cavendish electing to save himself for the final gallop.

With sprinters and their teams taking centre stage, it was easy to forget that there was a general classification battle simmering away beneath the surface. Bradley Wiggins’ Team Sky seemed to get on with their job under the radar all day, an uneventful stage just what the doctor ordered after narrowly avoiding peril for two consecutive days. Wiggins spent much of the day flanked by his Team Sky lieutenants, sheltering in the upper third of the bunch.

With around 60km to go, the chase slackened somewhat and Bobridge and Wurf’s lead had stabilised at around 2:30 mark. The sprinters’ teams heading the peloton were not keen to catch the breakaway duo too early, which might provoke counterattacks and further breaks, so the were left dangling as the race passed through the cobbled town centre of Andrea.

Bobridge and Wurf were eventually caught just before the race hit the 16km finishing circuit and which point misfortune struck for Wiggins. A mechanical problem saw the British rider drop back for a bike change and just a few minutes later, as Wiggins and his team were chasing back on, a massive pileup blocked the road in front, leaving Wiggins (and GC competitor Nibali) stuck behind and reigning champion Ryder Hesjedal in the leading group. Once underway again the second half of the bunch chased back on, with Team Sky breaking the wind at the front. Fortunately, a sporting spirit prevailed in the front half of the bunch, which relaxed its pace enough for the chasing riders to rejoin as the final sprint drew ever closer. Team Sky went straight to the front of the pack, keen to stay out of trouble and for a third day in succession, despite outrageous fortune, Wiggins had managed to avoid losing time on general classification.

As the race entered the last few kilometres Wiggins was still at the front putting in one of his trademark TT efforts, lining out the bunch and nullifying the numerous last ditch breakaway efforts. Entering the final kilometre, Argos Shimano had their train coupled for John Degenkolb but they’d stoked it up too early. Cavendish, with his Omega Pharma Quickstep teammates, were waiting for the Argos men to fade before they catapulted their race leader to victory, the Manxman’s devastating final kick sealing the deal, ahead of Elia Viviani and Matt Goss. Thanks to his stage win and intermediate bonuses, the British rider reclaimed the maglia rosso, leapfrogging from fourth to first place in the points classification. 

Straight after the race, an elated Cavendish spoke to Eurosport and praised his team’s stage long efforts: “It was incredible wasn’t it? I’m so happy, no problems, nothing went wrong. Everyone rode until their legs couldn’t go anymore. It’s beautiful, I’m so happy, we’re buzzing.

“It’s like when you build a kit car and you start it up. You know that feeling. There are all those bits of the engine that fit together. I’m just the exhaust, I’m just the last thing, the thing that makes the most noise.”

Cavendish went on to dedicate his win to Wouter Weylandt, who tragically died on this day in 2011 competing in stage three of the Giro d’Italia.

Stage seven will see the sprinters take a back seat, as the peloton takes to the hills to tackle the 177km stage from San Salvo to Pescara, which features four categorised climbs in its final third.

Stage Result

1 CAVENDISH Mark Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 03:56:03
2 VIVIANI Elia Cannondale Pro Cycling Team
3 GOSS Matthew Orica GreenEDGE
4 BOUHANNI Nacer Equipe Cycliste FDJ
5 GAVAZZI Mattia Androni - Venezuela
6 BELLETTI Manuel AG2R La Mondiale
7 APPOLLONIO Davide AG2R La Mondiale
8 NIZZOLO Giacomo RadioShack - Leopard
9 BRESCHEL Matti Team Saxo-Tinkoff
10 FERRARI Roberto Lampre - Merida