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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia: Cavendish crashes again, Evenepoel, Roglič lick wounds ahead of first big mountain test

Evenepoel sounding confident as he carries 'virtual' lead into first major climb: 'Roglič is nervous. He knows he is 44 seconds behind.'

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Mark Cavendish crashed again in Thursday’s sixth stage at the Giro d’Italia just a day after his spectacular spill when he slid across the line, but this time he rode across the finish upright on his bike.

Three Astana-Qazaqstan teammates rode with him to the line Thursday in Napoli after he hit the deck in a heavy fall on the Colle San Pietro provoked by a strong gust of wind, officials said.

“After his crash on the descent in stage six of the Giro Cavendish feels good,” a team update read. “He got some new brushes and abrasions on his right side of the body, but, generally, avoided any serious injury.”

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Cavendish rolled across the line more than 18 minutes behind stage-winner Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), who won in a bunch sprint in a thrilling finale that saw the remnants of the day’s breakaway reeled in just 200m from the line.

Cavendish managed to finish safely within the time cut and is expected to start Friday’s first major mountain summit. Tomorrow all the action will be at the front.

Geraint Thomas: ‘We’ll see everyone is at’

Geraint Thomas avoided losing time with some mechanical issues, and is ready for Friday’s test. (Photo: Chris Auld/VeloNews)

Thursday’s scenes were in sharp contrast to Wednesday’s finish-line melee, when Cavendish crashed wildly and slid across the finish line in fourth place on rain-slicked roads.

Other riders made it through Thursday’s transition stage along the flanks of Vesuvius and the Amalfi coast without mishaps, and are already bracing for the first major mountain stage of the 2023 Giro.

“Tough day, long stage tomorrow. The climbs are not super tough, but it’s after a hard week of racing. It’s the first big test for everyone, and we’ll see everyone is at,” said Ineos Grenadiers’ Geraint Thomas, who dropped a chain late Thursday. “We’ve been feeling good, riding well together, and the morale is high, and we’ll see if we can continue with that and see what we can do.”

Overnight leader Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) will have a big ask to hang on to pink, so riders will be attacking out of breakaways as well as among the GC favorites to move up.

Remco Evenepoel: ‘There is no stress for us’

Evenepoel carries confidence and a morale-boosting lead into Friday’s stage. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Pre-race favorites Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) also finished safely in the front bunch Thursday to stay near the top of the leaderboard.

Both crashed in Wednesday’s chaos, with Evenepoel taking two heavy falls that had some worried his GC hopes might be jeopardized.

On Thursday, a smiling Evenepoel was kicking around a soccer ball at the start village, and sounded confident ahead of Friday’s climbing stage ending atop the first-category Gran Sasso d’Italia (26.5km at 3.4%).

“I think I am the strongest at the moment,” he told Sporza after Thursday’s stage. “For now it is an ideal scenario for us. In the Tour of Catalonia I was behind, and now I am in front. There is no stress for us.”

The Gran Sasso summit will provide the first clues on where everyone stands so far after nearly a week of intense but not overly challenging racing.

The opening time trial and crashes have produced the real GC differences so far.

Evenepoel went so far to say that he sees rival Roglič — who is now 44 seconds behind him — on the back foot.

“I have the impression that Roglič is nervous,” Evenepoel said on Belgian TV. “He knows he is 44 seconds behind. Jumbo-Visma rides nervously through the peloton anyway. They push a lot, but that’s their style. We’ll see if he tries to make up time.”

Roglič, who was forced to change bikes late in the stage Thursday with a puncture, also didn’t show any signs of weakness ahead of the Friday climbing matchup after crashing about 7km to go in Wednesday’s stage.

“I am ready for it,” Roglič said of Friday’s stage. “A lot of guys will be anticipating this stage. I expect it to be a nice battle. I am looking forward to it.”

Jumbo-Visma sport director Marc Reef said the team, including key helper Sepp Kuss, are ready to step up and deliver for Roglič in his quest for the pink jersey.

“The classification riders will test each other. They can no longer hide,” Reef said. “We think the last five kilometers of the final climb will be decisive. Primož is making a good impression, so we are confident about tomorrow’s stage. He touched the ground yesterday but had a good night. We also managed the hectic stage today very well. We have a plan for tomorrow.”

Cavendish escaped serious injury in another crash Thursday at the Giro. (Photo: LUCA BETTINI/AFP via Getty Images)

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