Mark Cavendish wins the opening stage of 2013 Giro d'Italia

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Mark Cavendish wins opening stage of 2013 Giro d’Italia

Mark Cavendish has won the opening stage of the 2013 Giro d’Italia and is the first to wear the maglia rosa of the 96th edition of the race.

The former world road race champion launched his sprint from a long way back after finding himself bereft of team-mates in the final 500 metres. Cavendish hitched a ride on the three-man Orica-GreenEDGE train riding for Matt Goss, and when he found himself displaced by the Radioshack-Leopard duo of Giacommo Nizolo and Danilo Hondo, launched around the outside of both, with French champion, Nacer Bouhanni (Ag2r-La Mondiale), on his wheel.

Mark Cavendish celebrates victory on the opening stage of the 2013 Giro d’Italia with daughter, Delilah Grace, and designer, Sir Paul Smith

The Manx Missile’s assault brought him alongside Elia Viviani (Cannondale Pro Cycling), but it was Cavendish who triumphed in a straight fight for the line, and as he threw his hands in the air, Viviani pounded his handlebars in frustration.

Speaking afterwards, a delighted Cavendish compared the stage to a crit race, and said he had to win after promising Sir Paul Smith that he would win the first maglia rosa designed by the British fashion legend.

“That took a lot at the end,” said Cavendish. “There’s a common misconception sprinters are lazy, they do 250, but the sprinters that win are the ones that can sprint in the red zone. I was in the red for most of that.

“Really as a team we’ve been super, super excited for the Grand Tours. The Classics didn’t go as planned. We wanted to start getting it right here and I’m happy to win the first stage.”

It was not all plain sailing for Omega Pharma-QuickStep, who found themselves swamped in the final six kilometres after being the first of the sprinters teams to set tempo about 20km from home.

They had lined up on one side of the road with Team Sky on the other, the British team pushing as hard as any of those with ambitions for the stage, simply to keep leader, Bradley Wiggins, safe.

With four kilometres to go, and Orica-GreenEDGE suddenly present with a feisty Cannondale line-out, OPQS looked in trouble. A crash behind them seemed to give the Belgian squad new impeteus, and Cavendish was suddenly in contention.

The Manx Missile’s hopes of an armchair ride to the finish were dashed moments later when lead out man, Gert Steegemans, appeared stuck in too low-a-gear, prompting Cavendish to complain about the mechanical reliability suffered by his team-mates in a post-race interview.

Mark Cavendish throws his hands in the air in celebration while Elia Viviani pounds his handlebars in frustration

He has proved before, however, that he can win alone, and hitching himself to the rear of a trio of Orica-GreenEDGE riders appeared well-placed until displaced by the aforementioned Radioshack-Leopard duo.

Unable to contain himself, Cavendish launched, but even then, with the impressive Bouhanni, winner of the opening stage at Paris-Nice, on his wheel, and Viviani alongside, victory looked far from certain.

The former world road race champion, however, was simply too fast for his rivals. With his chin almost touching the stem and his teeth gritted, Cavendish drove furiously for the line, claiming the eleventh Giro stage win of his career in impressive fashion.

Tomorrow’s 17.4km team time trial from Ischia to Forio is likely to displace Cavendish from the pink jersey. Today, however, belongs to him.

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Giro d’Italia 2013: stage one – result

1) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep – 2.58.38
2) Elia Viviani (ITA) – Cannondale Pro Cycling – ST
3) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale
4) Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA) – RadioShack-Leopard
5) Matt Goss (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
6) Francisco Ventoso (ESP) – Movistar
7) Adam Blythe (GBR) – BMC Racing
8) Leigh Howard (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
9) Danilo Hondo (GER) – RadioShack-Leopard
10) Brett Lancaster (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE

General classification

1) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep – 2.58.38
2) Elia Viviani (ITA) – Cannondale Pro Cycling – ST
3) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale
4) Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA) – RadioShack-Leopard
5) Matt Goss (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
6) Francisco Ventoso (ESP) – Movistar
7) Adam Blythe (GBR) – BMC Racing
8) Leigh Howard (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
9) Danilo Hondo (GER) – RadioShack-Leopard
10) Brett Lancaster (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE

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