John Degenkolb (Argos Shimano) sprinted clear of a slew of skidding riders to claim victory on stage five of the 2013 Giro d’Italia.
The 24-year-old German, winner of five stages of the 2012 Vuelta a Espana, stayed upright as a host of riders, including his lead-out man, slid off on a treacherous final corner in Matera.
But in a day of disapointment for British fans, Mark Cavendish failed to contest the sprint after being dropped some 20km earlier on the category four climb of Montescagliaso, despite the efforts of his Omega Pharma-QuickStep team-mates.
Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) remained in sixth. A provisional result had placed him outside of the top 10. Luca Paolini (Katusha) continues to lead the race overall.
As the riders entered the final six kilometres, a sheen appeared on the road, bringing the riders into contact with the effects of the heavy weather that had beset Matera for much of the day.
A BMC-driven bunch, with Cadel Evans prominent, pushed forward relentessly towards the town, with a handful of contenders, Wiggins and Robert Gesink (Blanco) among them, in their wheels.
Hubert Du Pont (Ag2r-La Mondiale), the 32-year-old veteran of six Giri, attacked as the race entered the narrow streets of the town, but with mouth wide open and shoulders rocking, he was soon swept up by Evans’ red and black train.
With just two kilometres remaining, the Australian called off his troops and gave way to the sprinters’ teams, specifically the almost identically attired Cannondale Pro Cycling and Bardiani-Valvole squads.
But as the riders hit the final corner of the stage, and, crucially, the white paint of a pedestrian crossing, scores came crashing down, many sliding into the crowd barrier.
Marco Canola (Bardiani-Valvole), the first to make it safely around the corner, perhaps riding as lead-out man for yesterday’s winner, Enrico Battaglin, looked to have victory sewn up as he sprinted clear of the carnage behind.
But Degenkolb, a powerhouse sprinter in the German mold, set out on a long-range effort and cruised past the Italian within sight of the line.
He said: “There was one guy in front still from Guardiani, and I looked back and there was Viviani behind me and I went full gas to get to the finish and catch this guy from Bardiani.
“In the end, I couldn’t see anything. I was so empty. It was a great job from my team today. We controlled the whole race. We had the confidence and took the responsibility. It’s a great day for Argos-Shimano,” he said.
The German’s victory represented the second of the day for the Dutch outfit, after Britain’s Lucy Garner won the opening stage of the Chinese Tour of Chongming Island.
“It was really, really on the limit,” Degenkolb continued. “It was really hard in the end. I would love it if it had not been that hard. I had to suffer a lot to come to the finish today.”
Giro d’Italia 2013 – stage one – result
1) John Degenkolb (GER) – Argos-Shimano – 4.37.48
2) Angel Vicioso (ESP) – Katusha – ST
3) Paul Martens (GER) – Blanco Pro Cycling
4) Sergio Henao (COL) – Team Sky
5) Matteo Trentin (ITA) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep
6) Jarlinson Pantano (COL) – Columbia-Coldeports
7) Daniel Oss (ITA) – BMC Racing
8) Jens Keukeleire (GER) – Orica-GreenEDGE
9) Grega Bole (SLO) – Vacansoleil-DCM
10) Tanel Kangert (AST) – Astana
1) Luca Paolini (ITA) – Katusha- 19.56.39
2) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Team Sky +17″
3) Benat Intxausti (ESP) – Movistar +26″
4) Vincenzo Niabli (ITA) – Astana +31″
5) Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) – Garmin-Sharp +34″
6) Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Team Sky – ST
7) Giampaolo Caruso (ITA) – Katusha +36″
8) Sergio Henao (COL) – Team Sky +37″
9) Mauro Santambrogio (ITA) – Vini Fantini +39″
10) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing + 42″