Cavendish takes third stage victory as ailing Wiggins loses three minutes

Cavendish takes third stage victory as ailing Wiggins loses three minutes

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Stage 12 - Longarone - Treviso - 134km
16 May 2013
Report: Eddie Allen

Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish took his third 2013 Giro d’Italia stage victory on stage 12, catching a five man breakaway in the last km to take his 100th career win and reclaim the points jersey. It was a bitter sweet day for British riders though, with an ailing Bradley Wiggins losing over three minutes on his general classification rivals.

The 134km stage from Longarone to Treviso was an intriguing one – listed by race organisation as a flat stage, it included two 4th category climbs, an opening unclassified climb with a prime at its summit, a further prime between the two listed climbs and a 40km flat run-in to the finish. Not a classic sprinters stage on paper, nor a stage for the specialist climbers in the bunch. Due to the day’s treacherous conditions, race organisers decided to take the general classification timings at the 3km to go point, in an attempt to avoid calamity at the finish, leaving the sprinters to battle it out.

The day's headliner was the weather – torrential rain from beginning to end once again making things miserable for the peloton – none more so than Sir Bradley Wiggins, nursing a chest infection and a head cold. Speaking to Cycling Weekly following stage 11, the Wiggins said, “Most of the team have been ill so it's hardly surprising I am. I have a chest infection and a bog-standard head cold. I'm trying to fight through it, and I think in a few days I'll be OK." Today’s stage was, for Wiggins, one to get through.

The conditions didn’t deter the early break, with a group of four riders (Fabio Felline (Androni), Bert De Backer (Argos Shimano), Maxim Belkov (Katusha), Maurits Lammertink (Vaconsoleil) going clear, with Lammertink’s teammate Marco Marcato attempting to bridge. With no general classification threats amongst them, the breakaway quartet quickly opened up two minutes on the opening climb to Pieve d’Alpago, Belkov taking top sprint points at its summit. Marcato finally bridged to the group on the slippery descent, making it five out front. Behind, the race’s general classification protagonists were taking no chances, tiptoeing around the hairpin bends of the descent, avoiding unnecessary risk at all costs. Wiggins hung back at the rear of the peloton, while fellow British riders Steve Cummings and Adam Blythe were up front in support of BMC team leader Cadel Evans.

“It’s my 100th win and what a beautiful way to do it – with the guys – I’m so, so proud.”

Stage winner Mark Cavendish

Belkov however was pushing hard on the treacherous roads and finally got caught out on a right-hander, losing the front wheel and taking all but De Backer down with him. The quintet all managed to get going again and their gap increased to over three minutes as the first categorised climb of the Muro Di Ca’ del Poggio approached. First over the top of the steep 1.1km climb was Marcato however the result was irrelevant, as none of the break were contenders in the mountains classification.

With the first of two categorised climbs now behind them, Cavendish’s Omega Pharma Quick Step team began to group at the head of the bunch. With the 2013 route offering slim pickings for the sprinters, the British rider’s team was keen to prevent a potential third stage victory from slipping between Cavendish’s fingers. Predictably enough, the gap, in sympathy with the rain, began to fall and with just under 60km to go was close to two minutes.

Out front Lammertink tussled with Belkov for the second prime at Vidor, with the Vaconsoleil rider edging it. Behind in the bunch a rain soaked Cavendish was eyeing the bigger prize of stage victory; with the organisers confirming that the fast-twitch men would be free to contest the final furlong without the main bunch in attendance. The news that the race times for GC would be taken at the 3km point would no doubt have been music to Bradley Wiggins’ ears, having been caught behind last kilometre crashes on a number of occasions in the preceding stages.

As the breakaway hit the second climb of Montello Santa Maria Della Vittoria, the gap had stabilised at around 2 minutes 20 seconds, the peloton seemingly content with saving the last of the chase for the flat run-in. On paper, the opening stretch of the climb, at over 14% in places, certainly didn’t suit the sprinters, but Cavendish and Evans’ teams formed an effective road block at the head of the pack to neutralise potential party-spoilers.

The combative Maxim Belkov took the honours at the top the climb and the five riders tackled the greasy descent that followed, while a few kilometres back the Omega Pharma Quick Step led bunch crested the summit and resumed their chase in earnest. With 30km to go however, the chasers were making little impact on the well-organised quintet up front but at 25km to go Cavendish’s team were joined by fellow Brit and sprinter Adam Blythe’s BMC team and suddenly the gap started to fall fast.

Meanwhile, a minute behind the peloton, Wiggins’ Giro assault was in serious jeopardy, off the back of the bunch with a small group of riders and visibly suffering. With the chase on full gas ahead, it looked unlikely for the Wiggins group to re-establish contact. As the kilometres crawled painfully by, Wiggins lost the wheel of the rider in front, leaving him in a group of just three, the gap opening further and Wiggins’ hopes of general classification honours disappearing. Wiggins Team Sky teammates dropped back en masse to shepherd their team leader to the finish at the head of a small gruppeto, but with over two minutes between them and the maglia rosa group, Wiggins had a mountain to climb on the flat run in.

Back at the front of the race and with 10km to go, the breakaway lead had dwindled to 30 seconds. Finally at less than 1km to go the audacious five were swept up and the bunch sprint was on. There was really only one outcome, Cavendish coming off his teammate Gert Steegman’s wheel in the last few hundred metres with no-one even close to challenge his 100th career victory.

Following the race, a rain-soaked but elated Cavendish spoke to Eurosport, once again thanking his team for their day long efforts: “They were incredible. They were just riding on the front. Before the stage, there were teams that were like ‘yeah, we want to help, we want a sprint’ but there were one or two riders throughout the stage but it was mostly us.”

“It’s my 100th win and what a beautiful way to do it – with the guys – I’m so, so proud.”

Cavendish's win propelled him back into the maglia rosso passione, wresting the red points jersey from the shoulders of Cadel Evans.

Bradley Wiggins crossed 3km timing mark over three minutes behind the maglia rosa group, a bitter blow for the ailing 2012 Tour de France winner, who dropped out of the top ten in the general classification, lying in 13th place, five minutes and 22 seconds behind Vincenzo Nibali. 

Speaking to the Team Sky website, Team Principal Sir Dave Brailsford explained the background to Wiggins' performance and paid tribute to the rider's courage, which was so evident in the final kilometres of today's stage: “Brad developed a head cold and a chest infection and has been on antibiotics,” he confirmed. “His illness has got progressively worse and we knew ahead of the race this morning it was going to be tough for him to get through the stage.

“When you see a rider of Bradley Wiggins’ calibre struggling to hold the wheel in front of him on the flat you know that he’s ill. When you’re ill you’re ill and all you can do is your best to try and manage that illness. I think he showed great courage to battle through the stage to the finish.”

Brailsford went on to raise the question of Wiggins' further participation in the race: "Now we’ll get back to the hotel and the team doctor will assess him overnight and then we’ll take a decision about whether Brad continues, health-permitting, in the morning. It’s a testament to Brad that he has said he wants to continue in the race and carry on to Brescia with the team."

Stage Result

1 CAVENDISH Mark Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 03:01:47
2 BOUHANNI Nacer Equipe Cycliste FDJ "
3 MEZGEC Luka Team Argos - Shimano "
4 NIZZOLO Giacomo RadioShack - Leopard "
5 LANCASTER Brett Orica GreenEDGE "
6 BELLETTI Manuel AG2R La Mondiale "
7 FERRARI Roberto Lampre - Merida "
8 MODOLO Sacha Bardiani Valvole - CSF Inox "
9 TAMOURIDIS Ioannis Euskaltel - Euskadi "
10 VENTOSO ALBERDI Francisco José Movistar Team "

General Classification after stage 12

1 NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team 46:28:14
2 EVANS Cadel BMC Racing Team 00:41
3 URAN Rigoberto Sky Procycling 02:04
4 GESINK Robert Blanco Pro Cycling Team 02:12
5 SCARPONI Michele Lampre - Merida 02:13
6 SANTAMBROGIO Mauro Vini Fantini 02:55
7 NIEMIEC Przemyslaw Lampre - Merida 03:35
8 INTXAUSTI Benat Movistar Team 04:05
9 POZZOVIVO Domenico AG2R La Mondiale 04:17
10 MAJKA Rafal Team Saxo-Tinkoff 04:21
13 WIGGINS Bradley Sky Procycling @ 5:22