FANO, Italy (AFP) — World champion Mark Cavendish and his Sky leadout train held class Thursday on the Adriatic coast as the Manxman won stage 5 of the Giro d’Italia in a nearly picture-perfect bunch sprint finale. Cavendish topped points leader Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) and Daniele Bennati (RadioShack-Nissan) at the end of the 209km stage from Modena to Fano.
“I am very happy to win,” said Cavendish, three days after crashing in the stage 3 sprint. “The team did a great job for me today in the finale.”
Overall leader Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Barracuda) finished in the peloton to retain the maglia rosa.
It was Cavendish’s sixth win of the season and ninth overall in the Giro, in which he is competing for the fourth time, taking him to 32 stage wins in the grand tours.
“I couldn’t sleep after my fall (in Monday’s third stage), so I wasn’t 100 percent and I felt tired,” said the Isle of Man-born rider, who embraced his former model girlfriend Peta Todd and daughter Delilah Grace upon dismounting at the finish.
Cavendish’s task was made easier when several of his major rivals, including American Tyler Farrar (Garmin) and former world champion Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing), were dropped from the peloton in the final 30km under the pressure of the Liquigas-Cannondale team of Ivan Basso and Astana’s Roman Kreuziger.
Cavendish’s Sky team then came into their own in the final 10km as both Peter Kennaugh and Geraint Thomas paced him before the ‘Manx Express’ burst to the front to take the glory.
“There’s no better feeling than holding your baby in your arms,” said Cavendish. “Only thing comes close: holding your baby on the podium. It’s my first stage win with her at the race. I’m very happy. I’m very happy she’s here. I’m happy Peta’s here. I’m very proud.
“I would have loved to wear the pink jersey and my goal was the red (points) jersey. But I lost out on 20 points because of the crash on the stage to Horsens and so it’s gone. I’m disappointed but I’ll come back and try to get it next year.”
Goss said he had lost out to the stronger man.
“What do you want me to say? Cavendish is easily the strongest rider,” said the Australian. ”We went for the line at the same time and he finished in front of me. Is he unbeatable? If I thought that, it wouldn’t make any sense for me to take him on.”
On Friday, the riders have a 210km stage a little more challenging than Thursday’s, with four climbs, the last 33.5km from the finish. They will set out from Urbino, the birthplace of Renaissance painting master Raphael, and finish at Porto Sant’Elpidio on the coast.