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Giro d'Italia

Mark Cavendish oh-so-close in Giro d’Italia near-miss: ‘I’m sorry I couldn’t finish it off’

Wednesday's stage might have been Cavendish's best and perhaps last chance win a stage during this Giro.

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Mark Cavendish opened up his kick Wednesday with nothing but asphalt ahead of him, yet he couldn’t finish off the job in his best chance so far at victory in the Giro d’Italia.

Cavendish was perfectly placed on the wheel of Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), and looked to have the victory within reach, only to have Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates) and Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious) sweep past him.

“I was so motivated,” Cavendish said after hitting third. “The boys rode incredible for me, and I am so proud of them, and I am just sorry I couldn’t finish it off.

“I couldn’t change anything else about the sprint,” he said. “I just got beaten by, actually, two incredible young riders, Pascal Ackermann and Jonathan Milan. It’s not bad boys to be beaten by. So, my congratulations to Pascal.”

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Third place Wednesday is his best so far in this Giro, and matches his third at Scheldeprijs in April and third at stage 1 at the UAE Tour in February as his best so far this year.

Cavendish remains winless in 2023, but Wednesday’s stage was the best-executed so far by Astana Qazaqstan in delivering Cavendish to the line for the bunch sprint.

Cavendish crashed horribly in stage 5 when his wheel slipped on wet roads and then flipped off his bike after riding into the barriers when another rider crossed his wheel. He fell, and slid across the line on wet roads to finish fourth.

“We can be proud of the way we rode this stage as a team, the guys did a great job for Mark and he also made a perfect sprint, he did not make any mistake, just he was beaten by two faster riders today,” said sport director Stefano Zanini.

Wednesday’s stage might have been Cavendish’s best and perhaps last chance at a stage win during this Giro.

Thursday’s 12th stage features a very steep second-category climb with just under 30km to go that could be too steep for Cavendish and the other sprinters.

Friday’s climbing stage opens up a series of brutally steep mountain stages where the GC riders will step centerstage.

The only remaining sprint opportunities won’t come until stages 17 after a string of searing mountain stages and the Giro’s finale in Rome.

Cavendish hasn’t confirmed if he will try to last all the way to Rome, but it certainly won’t be easy for him and the other sprinters in the pack to suffer through the next 10 stages.

The veteran sprinter, who turns 38 on Sunday, is expected to soon turn his attention to the Tour de France.

Cavendish will be chasing the record 35th victory after being currently tied with Eddy Merckx for the most stage wins in Tour history at 34.

Zanini said Wednesday’s ride is confirmation that Astana Qazaqstan, which didn’t have much experience working with sprinters until Cavendish’s late-season arrival, can do the job.

“We knew we could make it to the finish with Mark and we worked hard to chase the break with Vadim Pronskiy and later, on the climb the guys provided a great support to Mark, bringing him back to the peloton and cruising him to the front looking for a good position for the sprint,” Zanini said. “Mark was there, he got a good wheel of Jonathan Milan and later of Mads Pedersen, he launched a very good sprint and missed just a little to get this win. It was a good one.”

Cavendish was beaten to the line Wednesday. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images,)

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