Mark Cavendish claimed his second sprint victory of the 2012 Giro d’Italia after a textbook leadout by Team Sky in Fano.
Cavendish claimed his first victory of the week in Denmark on stage two before crashing heavily the following day – but, after leading Sky across the line in Wednesday’s team time trial, the Manx Missile bounced back with victory in the first road stage in Italy.
Cavendish’s Sky team-mates provided the world champion with an armchair ride to the finishing straight, from where the Manx Missile jumped from the wheel of leadout man Geraint Thomas to hold off the challenge of stage three winner Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Daniele Bennati (Radioshack-Nissan-Trek).
Garmin-Barracuda’s Ramunas Navardauskus, who moved into the maglia rosa after helping his team to team time trial victory, finished safely in the bunch to retain the overall lead.
Alessandro de Marchi (Androni), Pier Paolo de Negri (Farnese Vini), Olivier Kaisen and Brian Bulgac (Lotto-Belisol) broke clear early in the 209km stage, with Bulgac the best placed rider in the general classification, one minute and 39 seconds off the pace.
The quartet gained around six minutes but, with Liquigas-Cannondale ramping up the pace at the front of the peloton, that advantage began to tumble as the category four climb of Gabicce Monte approached with 35km to the finish.
Tyler Farrar sat second in the general classification going into the day and the American knew he could move into the overall lead by finishing first or second on the day thanks to the 20 and 12-second time bonuses on offer – but the Tour de France stage winner was among the riders dropped on the day’s sole categorised climb.
De Marchi attacked the escape group on the tight, twisting descent with 20km remaining, while Kaisen, Bulgac and De Negri were soon caught by the chasing bunch, before De Marchi himself was swept up.
New Zealand powerhouse Jack Bauer dropped back to help pace Farrar’s group back to the peloton but the dropped riders, who included 2010 world champion Thor Hushovd, soon gave up the chase.
Cavendish had the support of five team-mates going into the final seven kilometres, with Team Sky moving to the head of the peloton in an attempt to control the sprint and keep the world champion out of harm’s way.
Adam Hansen of Lotto-Belisol attacked off the front of the peloton with three kilometres remaining in what was a surprise tactic from a rider who would fancy his chances in the sprint. But Hansen’s move was doomed and the Australian was soon swamped by the peloton, with Sky taking a stranglehold on the finale.
Pete Kennaugh peeled off with less than a kilometre remaining as Thomas ramped up his leadout before Cavendish launched a long sprint to take his tally of Grand Tour stage wins to 32.
Giro d’Italia stage five – result
1) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Team Sky – 4:43:15 hours
2) Matt Goss (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE – same time
3) Daniele Bennati (ITA) – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek
4) Robert Hunter (RSA) – Garmin-Barracuda
5) Sacha Modolo (ITA) – Colnago-CSF Inox
6) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha
7) lia Favilli (ITA) – Farnese Vini-Selle Italia
8) Manuel Belletti (ITA) – Ag2r La Mondiale
9) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ-Big Mat
10) Jonas Aaen Jörgensen (DEN) – SaxoBank
1) Ramunas Navardauskas (LTU) – Garmin-Barracuda 14:45:13 hours
2) Robbie Hunter (RSA) – Garmin-Barracuda +5″
3) Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) – Garmin-Barracuda +11″
4) Matt Goss (AUS) Orica-GreenEDGE +13″
5) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Team Sky +14″
6) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky +16″
7) Manuele Boaro (ITA) – SaxoBank +19″
8) Christian Vande Velde (USA) – Garmin-Barracuda +26″
9) Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (SPA) Katusha +302
10) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha