Mark Cavendish won a fourth stage of the 2013 Giro d’Italia today, a day after claiming his 100th professional victory.
The points leader made his own luck after finding himself devoid of team-mates in the closing kilometre of the longest stage of the race, a 254km drag from Busseto to Cherasco.
After banging shoulders with Leonardo Duque (Team Columbia), Cavendish fought his way through to outdrag Giacomo Nizzollo (Radioshack-Leopard) and Luka Mezgec (Argos-Shimano) in the final kick for the line.
“It’s a bit of a bonus and an extra trophy, but I am so tired,” an exhausted Cavendish said afterwards. “I don’t know how I’m going to recover from this before the mountains, really.
“It’s a common misconception that people think sprinters are lazy. The amount of effort it takes out of you, especially when you’re alredy on the limit, it really damages you for a few days.
“I had to go from 350 metres after a hard day. I’m on my knees. All I had to do was go and not look back.”
Cavendish revealed that he didn’t want to contest the sprint today, but sports director, Brian Holm, had given the instruction after Cannondale Pro Cycling and Orica-GreenEDGE had raised the tempo.
The Manx man gave his usual lavish praise of his team-mates, who had spent much of the closing 30km at the head of the bunch, whittling down the advantage of a group that contained Nicola Boem (Bardiani-Valvole), Pablo Lastras (Movistar), Tobias Ludvigsson (Argos-Shimano), Danilo Hondo (Radioshack-Leopard), Lars Bak (Lotto-Belisol), and Jairus Ermeti (Androni-Venezeula).
With 40km remaining, the group had been reduced to just three riders – Boem, Lastras, and Bak – who held a slender 40-second advantage as they toiled up the second category climb of Tre Cuni.
Some 15km later, and the gap had been reduced to 25 seconds with 25km remaining. Cavendish’s men continued to set tempo, while the GC contenders, notably Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), rode alongside to keep out of trouble.
Boem was the first of the breakaway trio to crack, and 16km from the finish he found himself passed by team-mate, Franco Bongiorno, who had attacked from the bunch with Frederick Veuchelen (Vacansoleil-DCM).
Perhaps sensing the ratcheting-up of pressure from behind, Bak attempted to rid himself of Lastras on the uncategorised rise of the Punte sul Tarano. While his attack was successful, it was short-lived, and both men were soon caught by a small group that splintered from the front of the bunch.
Lastras, after being briefed by a team-mate, continued with the new breakaway, now nine-men strong, and containing Katusha’s Giampaolo Caruso.
The Italian was the next to attack, and looked to have made a decisive move, quickly establishing a 15-second lead as he passed under the 5km to go banner, his arms draped across the bars, time trial-style.
But on the long-flat run in to Cherasco, Caruso remained painfully in sight of a remorseless peloton, now driven by Cannondale Pro Cycling, who cut his lead almost by half within two kilometres.
No sooner had they had reeled in Caruso, just 1.5 kilometres from the line, however, than the Italian squad was forced to cede ground to Orica-GreenEDGE.
The Australian and Italian teams led the fast men under the flamme rouge, and with Cavendish stranded, and twice boxed in, the game looked up for the 2011 world road race champion.
Cavendish, however, should never be discounted, and lighting the afterburners, he swung to the right of the road with Mezgec on his wheel, and set about passing Nizzolo.
As he crossed the line, Cavendish raised a hand to display four fingers, indicating his win tally from this year’s Giro campaign.
Giro d’Italia 2013 – stage 13 – result
1) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep – 6.09.55
2) Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA) – Radioshack-Leopard – ST
3) Luka Mezgec (SLO) – Argos-Shimano
4) Brett Lancaster (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
5) Elia Viviani (ITA) – Cannondale Pro Cyclng
6) Manuel Belletti (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale
7) Daniele Bennati (ITA) – Saxo-Tinkoff
8) Filippo Pozzato (ITA) – Lampre-Merida
9) Anthony Roux (FRA) – FDJ
10) Miguel Rubiano (Andriotti-Venezeula)
1) Vincenzo Niabli (ITA) – Astana – 52.38.09
2) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing +41″
3) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Team Sky +2.04
4) Robert Gesink (NED) – Blanco Pro Cycling +2.12
5) Michele Scarponi (ITA) – Lampre-Merida
6) Mauro Santambrogio (ITA) – Vini Fantini – Selle Italia +2.55
7) Prezemyslaw Niemiec (POL) – Lampre-Merida +3.35
8) Benat Intxausti (ESP) – Movistar +4.05
9) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +4.17
10) Rafal Majka (POL) – Saxo-Tinkoff +4.21