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Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) won stage 13 of the Giro d’Italia on Friday in Chierasco. At 254 kilometers, the leg from Busseto to Chierasco was the longest of the race and Cavendish was victorious ahead of two tough mountain tests this weekend.
Giacomo Nizzolo (RadioShack-Leopard) was second and Luka Mezgec (Argos-Shimano) was third.
“It was a long day. A long transfer, the longest stage. Everyone is getting tired,” said Cavendish. “The team worked very hard to control the breakaway. They did a great job to keep me in position in the finale. I had to do it alone in the sprint. I decided to go from a long way. I knew it was going to be close. In the end, I did it.”
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) finished in the peloton to defend his overall lead.
The Giro d’Italia continues Saturday with the 168km 14th stage from Cervere to Bardonecchia. Foul weather has forced organizers to consider rerouting the stage to eliminate the 7km climb to the finish.
The long breakaway goes really long
Seven riders jumped into the day’s breakaway and built a maximum advantage of 13:45: Danilo Hondo (RadioShack), Giairo Ermeti (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela), Pablo Lastras (Movistar), Tobias Ludvigsson (Argos), Nicola Boem (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox), Lars Bak (Lotto-Belisol), and Rafael Andriato (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia).
Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Orica-GreenEdge both chipped into Astana’s work controlling the gap. With 85km to go, the breakaway’s advantage was 3:40.
With the gap at 2:15 and 70km left to race, the two sprinters’ squads took up a major presence on the head of the bunch and began the work of chipping away at the last of the escape’s advantage.
The breakaway began cracking as the road covered a series of ramps inside the final 50km. Soon, Bak was at the front with just Lastras and Boem.
With the gap at just over a minute, Stefano Garzelli (Vini Fantini) attacked from the peloton over a small rise, springing free with Diego Rosa (Androni Giocattoli). Seven riders bridged across, making a nine-man chase group.
Movistar kept the pressure on in the peloton, never letting the chasers get more than 15 seconds up the road. With 42km to go, they were back together, the breakaway of three still 33 seconds up the road.
Vini Fantini set up shop with three riders on the front of the peloton.
Lastras rode away from his companions on a descent with 31km to go, but the trio was soon back together. With 30km to go, they held 21 seconds on the peloton and Omega Pharma took up its place at the front.
The leaders pushed their advantage back out to 44 seconds with 18km to go.
Omega Pharma continued to drive the peloton and snuffed out a number of attacks, including one from Vini Fantini’s Alessandro Proni.
Bardiani Valvole’s Francesco Bongiorno countered Proni and Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil-DCM) rode across to him.
Up the road, Lastras attacked the breakaway with 16km to go and Bak pursued.
With 16km to go, Oscar Gotto and a Vini Fantini teammate jumped from the bunch and rode across to Bongiorno and Veuchelen. The acceleration launched a group of eight riders and the new chase group took eight seconds on the peloton.
The chasers caught Lastras with 13.6km to go and the Spaniard went to work on the front of the group after a quick chat with teammate José Herrada. The leaders were: Lastras and Herrada (Movistar); Bak; Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha); Matteo Rabottini (Vini Fantini); Jorge Azana (Euskaltel-Euskadi); Bongiorno; and Veuchelen.
The leaders held just seven seconds with 10km to go, but the peloton had trouble closing on them on a high-speed descent.
The pace at the back dropped sprinters Matthew Goss (Orica) and Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida).
Ramping up for Cavendish
A series of attacks in the breakaway cut the breakaway down to five riders with 7km to go: Bongiorno, Caruso, Azana, Herrada, and Rabottini. Caruso attacked hard on a short, steep ramp 6km from the finish, shedding his mates.
An acceleration from Beñat Intxausti (Movistar) and Robert Kiserlovski (RadioShack), followed by Nibali, spelled the end of the chase group. Cannondale pushed to the front with 4.3km to go.
“I was at the front toward the end because I saw the movement from riders such as Kiserlovski, Intxausti, and [Michele] Scarponi,” said Nibali. “It was better to be at the front and make sure nothing happened.”
Danilo Di Luca (Vini Fantini) countered and found himself inside the 14-second gap between Caruso and the Cannondale-led peloton. With 1.5km remaining, Di Luca and Caruso were back and Orica led the bunch at break-neck speed into the final kilometer.
“I tried my luck on the descent to get some seconds,” said Caruso. “I would have liked to have some more. When I heard my gap, I knew it wouldn’t be enough because the sprinters were coming. Cavendish demonstrated again he’s a great sprinter and he deserves to win the stage.”
Cannondale made a bid for Elia Viviani up the left side of the road and took to the front. Cavendish was buried along the left barriers, eight wheels back.
The Manxman got the jump, however, and went early, accelerating to the right of the leadout. Mezgec followed, but couldn’t come even. Nizzolo reacted too late, jumping in vain after Cavendish as he rode by.
The Omega Pharma sprinter had his 101st career victory aboard the special edition Specialized Venge built to commemorate his centenary win the day before.
“I like to make a good show,” said Cavendish. “I love to win. I love racing the bike.”