Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) capitalised on a rare bunch sprint to win a second stage of the 2013 Giro d’Italia and record his 99th professional win.
The Manx Missile, who outsprinted Elia Viviani (Cannondale Pro Cycling) and Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE), dedicated his victory to Wouter Weylandt, the Belgian rider who died in a crash exactly two years ago at the 2011 Giro d’Italia.
Luca Paolini (Katusha) continues to lead the race, while Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) remains sixth overall, 34 seconds behind the Italian. Victory for Cavendish, meanwhile, sees the 27-year-old move back into the red points jersey.
“I’m so happy right now, it was incredible,” said Cavendish. “The leadout was absolutely perfect, nothing went wrong, it was beautiful. I’m absolutely buzzing.
“Imagine you have a kit car, something you’ve built from the start as we have this year with the leadout. You start it, ‘vroom vroom’ and you know, you have some fears about it, all those things having been put together, about being able to start the engine.
“I’m just the last part, the last one that makes the most noise. But when it works! That’s how you can win. I also want to dedicate this win to Wouter Weylandt, who died tragically at the Giro two years ago.”
The pan-flat stage provided a rare opportunity for a bunch sprint in this year’s edition of the Giro and Cameron Wurf (Cannondale Pro Cycling) and Jack Bobridge (Blanco Pro Cycling) set off on the day’s futile breakaway early on the 169km route.
Wurf and Bobridge built up a lead of more than six minutes but the sprinters’ teams, and most notably Omega Pharma-QuickStep, set about reeling in the duo.
The catch came 36km from the finish and Orcia-GreenEDGE and FDJ, working on behalf of Goss and French national champion Nacer Bouhanni, moved to the front alongside Omega Pharma-QuickStep as the sprint trains took shape.
Cavendish has criticised his leadout in recent months and was left exposed by a late crash and Geert Steegmans’ mechanical before taking victory on stage one in Naples, but Omega Pharma-QuickStep delivered the 2011 world champion to the line in textbook fashion.
Wiggins, meanwhile, finished safely in the bunch but the Team Sky rider’s day was not without drama of its own.
The 32-year-old, riding at the back of the peloton after a bike change, was caught behind a crash with 30km remaining and had to be paced back to the bunch, which had been slowed by Omega Pharma-QuickStep and FDJ in the knowledge that the Tour de France champion has been held up on a stage otherwise inconsequential to race for the title.
Wiggins’ team-mate, Christian Knee, said: “The boys did a brilliant job pacing him back on but I got caught up the road. It was so loud in the bunch that I couldn’t hear over the race radio what had happened behind me until it was too late. When I found out I went straight to the front and told the FDJ and Quick-Step guys to stop pulling.
“They agreed to ease off a little but the pace was still high so the boys had to ride hard to bring Bradley back on. They did a great job and then I moved him towards the front to keep him out of any further trouble.
“This was the last sprint day for a while, so that’s why it was so hectic, and we knew we had to stay safe at the front. In the end we did that so we’re all happy with how things turned out.”
Giro d’Italia 2013 – stage six – result
1) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep – 3:56:03 hours
2) Elia Viviani (ITA) – Cannondale Pro Cycling – same time
3) Matt Goss (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
4) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – FDJ
5) Mattia Gavazzi (ITA) – Androni Giocattoli
6) Manuel Belletti (ITA) – Ag2r La Mondiale
7) Davide Appollonio (ITA) – Ag2r La Mondiale
8) Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA) – Radioshack-Leopard
9) Matti Breschel (DEN) – Saxo-Tinkoff
10) Roberto Ferrari (ITA) – Lampre-Merida
1) Luca Paolini (ITA) – Katusha – 19:56:39 hours
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 – same time
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″