Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) won stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday in Treviso. On a day that surprisingly shook up the overall standings, Cavendish took a bunch sprint — his 100th win as a professional — after 134 rainy kilometers.
Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) was second and Luka Mezgec (Argos-Shimano) was third.
“It’s a beautiful victory for the team for my 100th win,” said Cavendish.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) finished with the front group to defend his overall lead. On a day that his former Madison partner earned his centenary win, Bradley Wiggins (Sky) saw further damage to his GC hopes. He dropped off the pace on a late descent and lost more than three minutes to Nibali, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), and Sky teammate Rigoberto Urán.
The Giro d’Italia continues Friday with the 234km 13th stage from Busseto to Cherasco.
A rainy day at the Giro
Riders woke up Thursday morning to discover a deluge had engulfed northern Italy. The warm Italian spring was blotted out by heavy rain falling at a 45-degree angle as strong westerly winds belted Longarone. Temperatures were cool, at about 53 degrees Fahrenheit, setting the stage for a horrible day on the bike. Deep puddles and trenches of water covered the roads.
Though it was one of the shortest stages in the 2013 Giro, at 134km, is became one of the longest, at least in terms of suffering. Painted traffic lines, which turn icy slick in the wet, made for a tense, nerve-racking day. Giro organizers neutralized the finale of the stage, announcing they would take the time at 3km to go, meaning that any splits in the final, as the peloton ramped up
for the bunch sprint, would not count against the GC contenders.
Five riders were able to cut free of the peloton 9km into the stage: Fabio Felline (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela), Marco Marcato and Maurits Lammertink (Vacansoleil-DCM), Maxim Belkov (Katusha), and Bert De Backer (Argos-Shimano).
With 50km remaining, the breakaway held onto an advantage of just more than two minutes. The peloton rolled past swollen rivers, led by Omega Pharma.
The Belgian squad led the bunch over the top of the Cat. 4 Montello S.M.D. Vittoria with 41km to go, 2:39 behind the escape.
From there, an 8km descent led to the mostly flat run-in to Treviso — the terrain of the sprinters’ teams. Jérôme Pineau led the peloton down the descent, Cavendish tucked into fourth wheel.
“We were warned that the descent today was going to be bad, so we took special care,” said Nibali. “Then, after the descent, Omega took charge of the stage and gave chase all the way to the finish.”
Wiggins loses more time
BMC Racing and Cannondale each began contributing to the work, the former protecting Cadel Evans, second on the GC. Evans’ teammates were also distancing the man sitting fourth overall, as Bradley Wiggins fell off the pace on the descent.
“We just wanted to keep Cadel safe,” said teammate Taylor Phinney. “He was the priority No. 1 and we kept him up in the front. It was a nervous day, but we all ride in these sort of rainy, cold conditions. So it was a better day for us than for other people.”
Soon, Wiggins was alone with two riders, two minutes off the back of the maglia rosa group. Christian Knees dropped back to pace Wiggins with 15km to go.
Cannondale and BMC Racing continued working at the front. Still, the breakaway held 1:04 with 13km to go.
Knees and Wiggins made their way up to a large group, where four Sky riders — Knees, Dario Cataldo, Danny Pate, and Kanstantsin Siutsou — went to work pulling the 2012 Tour champ. With the pace high up ahead, the chase made no progress, however, and with 10km to go, Wiggins still trailed the Nibali group by more than three minutes.
Cav closes in on win no. 100
With 12km to go, the breakaway’s advantage dropped below one minute.
Orica-GreenEdge began contributing to the effort on the front of the maglia rosa group and the gap dropped to less than 40 seconds with 10.5km to go.
With 8km to go, the gap was just 30 seconds. The five escapees continued to press when they rolled through the finish for a lap around the finish town, but Omega Pharma was leading the peloton just behind.
Five Sky riders led Wiggins through for the bell lap 3:11 later.
Up ahead, the gap was down to 20 seconds with 5km to go. Omega Pharma pulled hard.
The breakaway rode gingerly through the painted corners in Treviso, but pushed hard on the straightaways. With 4km to go, the five riders held 16 seconds.
With 3km to go, the gap was 11 seconds.
The front of the maglia rosa group was a mix of colors, Lotto-Belisol, Cannondale, and Orica with a jersey each behind the single Omega Pharma leader.
With 2km to go, the Omega Pharma man pulled off the front and the escapees held a 100-meter advantage.
Wiggins was 3:20 back.
With 1km to go, the gap was just five seconds. De Backer opened up a long sprint from the escape, but the group was finished.
Felline pressed on up the right barriers, but Gert Steegmans led Cavendish to the front on the left side of the road.
“We came here wanting to win every sprint, and so far, we’ve done it convincingly, leading the peloton from start to finish,” said Cavendish. “Everyone worked to bring the breakaway back. Geert Steegmans was really controlled in the final part. In these difficult conditions, it is easy to get carried away too soon, but today our timing was perfect.”
Cavendish opened his sprint inside the final 150 meters and there was never any doubt whether the Manxman would raise a hand at the line.
“The team were incredible,” said Cavendish. “We left it right to the end. We were a minute down with 10km to go, and it was a hard circuit in the rain. It was left to my men. … It’s my 100th win. What a beautiful way to do it with my team.”
Bouhanni tangled with Sacha Modolo (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox) for second wheel and the Italian was forced to lunged left to keep his balance. The move was enough to delay Modolo’s sprint and push him off the podium.
Bouhanni held off Mezgec for second. FDJ announced afterward that the French champion would leave the race before Friday’s 13th stage.
“Nacer has nothing to regret … Now, he will leave us,” said FDJ director Martial Gayant. “He is 22 years old and has a nice program that awaits. The Critérium du Dauphiné, the championship of France, and perhaps the Tour de France. We must be reasonable. He obtained good results in this Giro, third, fourth and so second.”
The Wiggins group came through more than 3:30 after Cavendish. The 2012 Tour de France champion, fourth overall and suffering from a chest infection, likely saw his Giro hopes finished.