Mark Cavendish buoys British spirits with a fourth stage victory in Cherasco

Mark Cavendish buoys British spirits with a fourth stage victory in Cherasco

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Stage 13 - Busseto - Cherasco - 254km
17 May 2013
Report: Eddie Allen

Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish took a fourth 2013 Giro stage victory on the queen stage from Busseto to Cherasco following a tireless day-long chase by his Omega Pharma Quick Step team. Cavendish once again showed his peerless form in the final 500 metres, after demonstrating superb climbing prowess over the lumpy final third of the 254km stage in the Piedmont.

Cavendish’s victory softened the blow of the day’s earlier news, which saw the withdrawal of Bradley Wiggins on medical grounds. Gone too was 2012 Giro winner Ryder Hesjedal (also on health grounds) with Mark Cavendish’s oft criticised sprint rival, Nacer Bouhanni also quitting the race. Also conspicuous by its absence was the horrendous weather that characterised much of the Giro so far, with bright sunshine a welcome relief for all concerned.

The queen stage of the 2013 Giro d’Italia was a long day in the saddle for the remaining riders, with 254 kilometres of racing from Busetto to Churesco, 50 kilometres southeast of Turin. The day’s parcours was pancake flat for the most part, with a lumpy section towards the end. The biggest of these lumps was the 3rd category climb of Tre Cuni, peaking at 714 metres above sea level. The stage distance and late climb prompted some pundits to compare it to the Milan San Remo ‘sprinter’s classic’, a race which Cavendish won in 2009.

"I’m on my knees but all I could do was go. I had to go and not look back after what the guys had done all day. I actually didn’t want to go for the sprint today but the guys stayed with me on the climbs – you saw the work they did – the guys ride and ride until their legs won’t go anymore and I’m so proud of that."

Mark Cavendish

Predictably enough for a long, flattish stage, there were numerous attempts to establish a break in the opening stages before an escape group finally got away. The group, comprising Danilo Hondo (RadioShack), Pablo Lastras (Movistar), Tobias Ludvigsson (Argos Shimano), Lars Bak (Lotto Belisol) and Nicola Boem (Bardiani Valvole) Giairo Ermeti (Androni Giocattoli) and Rafael Andriato (Vini Fantini) quickly gained a huge 13 minute advantage before the sprinter’s teams began to get organised and reel them back in.

At around 80km to go the gap was down to around three minutes, with Omega Pharma Quick Step drilling it at the front, much to the chagrin of many riders in the peloton who fancied an easier day prior to two days in the high mountains.

The breakaway was still alive, albeit with its lead reduced to a minute, as the race approached the foot of the Tre Cuni climb; Cavendish’s team joined by Matt Goss’ Orica GreenEdge squad at the head of the strung out peloton. Onto the climb and Stefano Garzelli (Vini Fantini) and Diego Rosa (Androni) attacked, quickly joined by a brace of Katusha riders and mountains jersey holder Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole - CSF Inox). Up ahead the breakaway had split apart following an attack from Boem, with only Lars Bak and Pablo Lastras with the legs to follow him. Suddenly, the sprint teams’ grasp on the stage looked tenuous. If stage 13 was indeed the Giro’s Milan San Remo, would the Tre Cuni climb be its decisive ‘Poggio’ moment?

Garzelli and Rosa’s attack was quickly countered by the peloton, now led by the Vini Fantini team; Cavendish and his teammates were climbing well but out front the surviving trio of Boem, Bak and Lastras pushed on and with 4km remaining of the 10km Tre Cuni climb, their advantage hovered around the 30 second mark. The break hung on over the summit of Tre Cuni, with Boem taking top mountain points but with just 35 kilometres of twisting, undulating roads to the finish, the run-in promised to be far from predictable.

With this in mind Omega Pharma Quick Step were keen to regain control and hit the front of the peloton on the technical Tre Cuni descent, attempting to neutralise any attacks. With less than 20km to go on the lumpy run in to the finish, the breakaway lead increased to 44 seconds and the result continued to hang in the balance.

The attacks then came thick and fast with Vini Fantini and Bardiani Valvole trading blows on the penultimate climb of the day. Up front Lastras struck out for solo glory with Bak and Boem chasing hard. They were soon joined by a seven rider group of Vini Fantini, Euskaltel, Katusha and Movistar riders and with 12km to go, Cavendish’s team had to continue to chase hard if they were to have any chance of stage victory.

Onto the final punchy climb of the day and the break began to disintegrate, dangling just a few hundred metres ahead of the peloton. At the top of the climb with 6km to go Katusha’s Gianpaulo Caruso made a solo attack and quickly opened a gap and the lack of organisation in the breakaway became their undoing as they were swept up by the peloton.

Another counter attack from Vini Fantini, this time Danilo Di Luca, was pulled back and it wasn’t too long before Caruso too was caught by the amassing sprinters teams. Finally it looked like the bunch sprint was a certainty. And with the bunch sprint on, there was a crushing inevitability about the outcome, with Cavendish unloading from seven riders back, overtaking Viviani’s Cannondale train to secure his 4th 2013 Giro victory.

Speaking to Eurosport directly after the stage win, Cavendish said, “It’s a bit of a bonus, an extra trophy but I’m so tired. I don’t know how I’m going to recover from this before the mountains. That’s the common misconception – people think sprinters are lazy – the amount of effort it takes to do that, especially when you’re on the limit – it really damages you for a few days.

“I had to go from 350 metres after that hard day. I’m on my knees but all I could do was go. I had to go and not look back after what the guys had done all day. I actually didn’t want to go for the sprint today but the guys stayed with me on the climbs – you saw the work they did – the guys ride and ride until their legs won’t go anymore and I’m so proud of that.”

Stage 14 sees the race return to the mountains for a weekend of high altitude general classification duelling, fuelling speculation that Cavendish may call it a day – the remaining stages offering little in the way of compensatory sprint win opportunities. However, with Cavendish extending his lead in the maglia rosso passione contest, and with a chance to complete his collection of Grand Tour points jerseys, the question of whether the flying Manxman would remain for the finale in Brescia remained unanswered.

Stage Result

1 CAVENDISH Mark Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 06:09:55
2 NIZZOLO Giacomo RadioShack - Leopard ,,
3 MEZGEC Luka Team Argos - Shimano ,,
4 LANCASTER Brett Orica GreenEDGE ,,
5 VIVIANI Elia Cannondale Pro Cycling Team ,,
6 BELLETTI Manuel AG2R La Mondiale ,,
7 BENNATI Daniele Team Saxo-Tinkoff ,,
8 POZZATO Filippo Lampre - Merida ,,
9 ROUX Anthony Equipe Cycliste FDJ ,,
10 RUBIANO CHAVEZ Miguel Angel Androni - Venezuela ,,

Points classification after stage 13

1 CAVENDISH Mark Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 108
2 EVANS Cadel BMC Racing Team 73
3 VIVIANI Elia Cannondale Pro Cycling Team 72
4 NIZZOLO Giacomo RadioShack - Leopard 59
5 BELKOV Maxim Katusha Team 55
6 URAN Rigoberto Sky Procycling 53
7 SANTAMBROGIO Mauro Vini Fantini 52
8 BATTAGLIN Enrico Bardiani Valvole - CSF Inox 45
9 NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team 45
10 BETANCUR GOMEZ Carlos Alberto AG2R La Mondiale 43

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