Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) outsprinted Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) to victory on stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia in Vedelago as the Manx Missile missed out on the chance to earn maximum points to aid his red jersey campaign.
Cavendish’s lead had been cut to just one point at the top of the points classification by Joaquim Rodriguez after the Katusha rider won stage 17, the Spaniard’s second victory of the race. With two mountain stages looming before the final time trial on Sunday, stage 18 represented Cavendish’s final chance to score big points.
Cavendish won the day’s intermediate sprint to earn eight points and looked well-placed ahead of the finale but could not respond to Guardini’s kick, with the world champion forced to settle for second ahead of Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli).
That earned Cavendish an additional 20 points, extending his lead over Rodriguez to 29, but the race leader is sure to feature at the front of the race on the two Dolomites stages to come, with the destination of the red jersey now out of Cavendish’s hands.
After a tough stage on Wednesday, which scaled four mountains including the 2,236m Passo Giau, stage 17 was a chance for the race’s general classification contenders to earn some respite before the weekend’s racing, with no change in the GC by the end of the day.
The 139km largely downhill stage also represented the final chance for the Giro’s non-climbers to try for a stage win and four riders went clear early in the stage.
Sky pegged the quartet’s advantage to under the three minute mark, however, and upped the pace in the peloton significantly as the intermediate sprint approached, reeling in the break to allow Cavendish to take maximum points.
With 65km of the stage remaining, a new four-man break went up the road but were only allowed an advantage of around a minute. Lars Bak (Lotto Belisol) then attacked from the front of the peloton with 14km to go and rode across to the sole remaining escapee, Mickael Delage (FDJ-BigMat), but the duo were swept up within the final 5km after a brave effort.
Many of the Giro’s top sprinters, including Matt Goss, Mark Renshaw and Theo Boss, have already abandoned the race and, with the peloton as one, Cavendish was overwhelming favourite to secure a fourth stage victory.
But Sky were forced to utilise a depleted leadout train after Peter Kennaugh abandoned early on stage 17, forcing Bernhard Eisel and Geraint Thomas to increase their efforts in the final kilometres to move Cavendish into position.
But several tough mountain stages looked to have taken the kick out of the 27-year-old’s legs and 22-year-old Guardini jumped from the Sky sprinter’s wheel to underline his promise by securing a first Grand Tour stage victory, with Cavendish’s slamming his handlebars in frustration as he crossed the line.
Giro d’Italia stage 18 – result
1) Andrea Guardini (ITA) – Farnese Vini-Selle Italia
2) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Team Sky
3) Roberto Ferrari (ITA) – Androni Giocattoli
4) Robert Hunter (RSA) – Garmin-Barracuda
5) Lucas Sebastian Haedo (ARG) – SaxoBank
6) Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA) – RadioShack-Nissan-Trel
7) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha
8) Francesco Chicchi (ITA) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep
9) Geoffrey Soupe (FRA) – FDJ-BigMat
10) Dennis Vanendert (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol
1) Joaquim Rodriguez (SPA) – Katusha – 77:47:38 hours
2) Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) – Garmin-Barracuda +30″
3) Ivan Basso (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale +1’22”
4) Michele Scarponi (ITA) – Lampre – ISD +1’36”
5) Rigoberto Uran Uran (COL) – Team Sky +2’56”
6) Benat Intxausti (SPA) – Movistar Team +3’04”
7) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Colnago-CSF Inox +3’19”
8) Paolo Tiralongo (ITA) – Astana +4’13”
9) Thomas De Gendt (BEL) – Vacansoleil-DCM +4’38”
10) Sergio Henao (COL) – Team Sky +4’42”
1) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Team Sky – 138 points
2) Joaquim Rodirguez (SPA) – Katusha – 109 points
3) Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) – Garmin-Barracuda – 73 points
4) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Colnago-CSF Inox – 63 points
5) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha – 58 points