The first Grand Tour of the 2013 cycling season, the 21-stage Giro d’Italia got underway Saturday, May 4, and ended in a sprint win for Omega Pharma-Quickstep’s Mark Cavendish.
Despite not having a leadout and having to bridge a ten-meter gap in the final 500 meters, “The Fastest Man in the World” lived up to his nickname, talking the race leader’s pink jersey and his 11th career Giro win.
Cavendish lost his leadout rider Gert Steegemans to a gear failure in the final half-kilometer. At the same time, the three-rider Orica-GreenEdge leadout train accelerated sharply, opening a gap between themselves and the rest of the field.
Cavendish had to push hard to bridge top the leaders, and then with no time to recover, had to start his sprint from sixth wheel when Matt Goss of Orica-Greenedge started his, ten meters further ahead. Goss surprisingly burned out, while Cannondale’s Elia Viviani, FDJ’s Nacer Bouhanni, and two RadioShack riders, Danilo Honda and Giacomo Nizzoli, swept by at the line.
None of them were able to hold off the Manx Missile; Cavendish had enough power to pass them all in the final few meters.
“It was a difficult stage for me, with all the corners and accelerations it was almost like a criterium race or something,” Cavendish told Eurosport.com. “The team did an incredible job to stay in the front.
“Things didn’t go quite so perfect in the end, with Steegmans getting a mechanical problem in the final kilometer, but I made the best of it. I had to catch the GreenEdge train and that took a lot of energy.
“There is a common misperception that sprinters are lazy, only riding the last 250 [meters.] Sprinters are ones who can really sprint in the red zone, and I was in the red for most of that.
“It was really hot out there, but I wanted it so bad. The team worked so hard for me all day, and after the Classics not quite going as planned we wanted to really start getting things right. I’m happy we could win this first stage.”
The Omega rider might be able to wear the leader’s jersey for another day. Stage Two is a team time trial with a four slight hills; Cavendish should be able to keep up with his team mates here, and if Omega Pharma-Quickstep rides well together he might keep the lead for one more day.
Stage Three has a Cat Two and Cat Three climb in the final 70 km and a downhill finish, so it is certain Mark Cavendish won’t be wearing pink at the end of that stage.