Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) won stage 6 of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday.
Cavendish was delivered to the sprint victory by his teammates, who pushed the pace at the front of the peloton for most of the day and then led him out at the finish.
The British rider, who triumphed in the race’s opening stage in Naples, catapulted off the wheel of teammate Gert Steegmans close to the finish line to win ahead of Elia Viviani (Cannondale) and Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge).
“I am happy, content,” Cavendish in a TV interview afterward. “The team was incredible today. Everything was perfect today, 100 percent perfect. There are only a few stages for the sprinters this year, so I will try to win a few more in the next few days.”
Cavendish dedicated his victory to Wouter Weylandt, the Belgian rider who was killed in a horrific crash during the 2011 Giro two years ago today.
There were no changes in the GC, so Luca Paolini (Katusha) maintained his 17-second lead over Rigoberto Urán (Sky) and 26-second advantage over Benat Intxausti (Movistar) after the 169-kilometer stage from Mola di Bari to Margherita di Savoia.
“It was very important to be at the front of the race today,” Paolini said. “It was a technical finale. There was a big crash and the team did a good job protecting me today.”
Near disaster for Wiggins
Bradley Wiggins (Sky), who is 34 seconds behind Paolini in the race for the maglia rosa, almost lost a bunch of time after a crash with 32.5km left. As the peloton made its way through the finishing straight for the first of two circuits around Margherita di Savoia that would close out the stage, the road narrowed and dozens of riders got tangled up. The result was a roadblock that acted as a dam – nobody could get through.
Wiggins, who had dropped back with most of his teammates shortly before the crash for a bike change, was caught behind the mayhem and was forced to wait it out until holes opened.
Wiggins was around two minutes behind the peloton by the time he got back on his bike. The peloton slowed and allowed the large Wiggins group to rejoin the pack with about 22km left.
“I’ll stick my neck out for all the other teams, no one went full gas after the crash,” Cavendish said.
Australians Jack Bobridge (Blanco) and Cameron Wurf (Cannondale) escaped 15km into the stage and rode by themselves for hours. They had a sizeable advantage at one point, but the flat parcours and the expected sprint finish meant their effort was destined to fail.
Still, the Aussies were able to stay out front until the peloton swallowed them up with a little more than 36km remaining.
The race resumes with Friday’s stage 7, a 177km course from San Salvo to Pescara that features rolling hills throughout.