MILANO, Italy (VN) — Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) made it look easy in Sunday’s finale to close out the 96th Giro d’Italia.
After surviving a brutal Giro, with bad weather and endless climbs, Cavendish kicked to his fifth win of this Giro after hitching a ride on the Cannondale set-up train to reconfirm his status as the fastest man in the bunch.
As if there were ever any doubt.
“The last stage is always special,” Cavendish said. “I was also racing for the points jersey. The team did incredible work; I’m lucky to be part of such an exceptional group of guys. [Sacha] Modolo did a great sprint. It was hard to beat him, but I am good right now. I am at a new level. After getting through all those mountains, there was no way I was going to lose in Brescia.”
While taking nothing away from the Giro sprinter field, Cavendish was clearly head and shoulders above the rest. Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) struggled with illness and John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) bolted after winning stage 5 and also falling ill.
Indeed, Degenkolb was the only other sprint winner in this year’s Giro. Cavendish took the rest, winning all five of the sprints he contested.
The victory also pushed him over the top to win the red points jersey, giving him points jerseys in all three grand tours.
His first came in the 2010 Vuelta a España; his second, in the 2011 Tour de France. After entering the final stage last year in the red jersey, only to lose in the final-day time trial to Joaquim Rodríguez, Cavendish won Sunday to secure the jersey.
Cavendish becomes only the fifth rider in grand-tour history to bring home the points jersey in all three marquee events.
After a tumultuous season at Team Sky, Cavendish is back at his best, dominating the sprints and making headlines.
Omega Pharma sport director Brian Holm said this Giro displayed Cavendish at his best.
Even as the team struggles to perfect the set-up train, Cavendish made it through a grueling Giro to arrive for the final-day sprint.
“We are seeing a very good Cavendish again,” Holm told VeloNews. “I think it’s his head that makes him so good. I never met anybody with a head like that. He has so much confidence in himself. He is so fast, he can win at 90 percent. That just lifts everyone.”
Holm has worked with Cavendish since joining High Road in 2007. After Cavendish raced with Sky for the 2012 season, the pair was reunited at Omega Pharma.
Holm said he doesn’t see anyone seriously taking on Cavendish in the sprints.
“I think he can be at the top, top for three more years,” Holm said. “Sooner or later, there will be another Cavendish coming out of nowhere to smoke him, and that’s it. That’s life.”
And could that rider already be here? In the form of Peter Sagan (Cannondale), who won the Tour’s green points jersey last year? Not in a pure sprint, said Holm.
“Sagan will gets some wins, but at the end of the day, Cavendish is a better pure sprinter,” Holm said. “Sure, Sagan will beat him like he did at Tirreno, because he’s more of a complete rider. [Marcel] Kittel will book his wins, and [André] Greipel will beat him on and off, but for the moment, Cav is still the man.”
Cavendish next takes aim at the Tour de France, where he will square off against a much deeper sprinter field. Top rivals Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), Peter Sagan (Cannondale), and André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) will be among the starters in Corsica to give Cavendish a run for his money in the Tour.
With a deeper sprinter field and a work-in-progress lead-out train, Cavendish will be surely put to the test more than he has in quite some time. No matter what happens, he always makes it interesting.