HERNING, Denmark (VN) — Mark Cavendish (Sky) put his stamp on the Giro d’Italia and proved he’s on top of his game after a break for the birth of his baby girl. He teamed with lead-out man Geraint Thomas on Sunday to win the first road stage of the Giro.
“I wasn’t so sure how I’d be sprinting,” Cavendish said in a press conference, next to leader Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) and a piece of cake. “I haven’t been sprinting for a long while, I lost a lot of weight, and put it back on eating this cake. My sensations were good and I was able to kick again.”
Cavendish thanked his entire team, but especially Thomas. They were British Academy teammates as amateurs and only teamed together as professionals this year after Cavendish transferred to Sky when HTC-Highroad disbanded.
In the set-up, Thomas went head-to-head with Robert Hunter, who was leading out Garmin-Barracuda’s Tyler Farrar, and delivered Cavendish to the front of a hectic sprint in Herning. Thomas worked off the wheel of Peter Kennaugh.
The lead-out duo both came from the track worlds last month in Melbourne where they set a new world record and won the gold medal in the team pursuit. They are on path for the Olympics at the end of July and will skip the Tour de France, but are at the Giro for Cavendish.
“I talked to Geraint, I thought he might struggle, because they just came off the track,” Cavendish added. “It was not easy today, especially when you have a team that wasn’t working together before. Legs-wise, I don’t think it was a shock to their system.”
Thomas confessed to VeloNews that he had his doubts about his ability in the sprint.
“To be honest, it was a shock to the old system, just being in that situation again. In Paris-Nice I didn’t do any sprints, in the Tour de Romandie I was just riding,” Thomas explained while cooling down at Sky’s bus.
“To be honest, I was like, ‘Oh crap, did I leave him a bit short there?’ We came around that corner, we flew around that corner, I thought Robbie [Hunter] or Tyler [Farrar] was going to come down. Fortunately, he stayed, it was just Hunter and I drag racing! I just thought, ‘I got to keep going, keep going,’ and I was looking, I could see that he [Hunter] moved left and I was relieved. Then they all just started their sprint at the same time and Cav’s the best in the world, isn’t he?”
Cavendish believes there are six possible sprint stages in this year’s Giro. He typically doesn’t win on the first possible one, but Thomas said, “That’s because he never had me leading him out!”
One bunch sprint down, one win for Cavendish and Thomas. This first win may just put the duo on a roll.