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MESSINA, Italy (VN) – What is a bunch sprint without Mark Cavendish and Caleb Ewan in the modern-day peloton?
The Giro d’Italia found out Wednesday.
Cavendish and Ewan were dropped by a searing pace set by Alpecin-Fenix over the day’s once-innocuous looking climb and were never seen again.
“We were at two minutes after the top of the climb, and we knew it would be hard to close down two minutes,” Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl leadout ace Michael Mørkøv explained to VeloNews at the finish.
“I think we got a minute when we chased, then we lost time again. We had to take a decision if it was worth using that amount of energy for the last 60km, or if we should save for the coming days.”
The latter option got the Quick-Step seal of approval.
After chasing hard for half an hour, Cavendish, Mørkøv and four Quick-Step sidekicks pulled the pin and hoped second sprinter Davide Ballerini would deliver.
“We made the call together,” Mørkøv said. “We all knew with the last 60 K, if we chased, we would burn all our matches.”
— Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team (@qst_alphavinyl) May 11, 2022
Stage winner Arnaud Démare was also dropped on the cat 2. Portella Mandrazzi climb. Unlike Ewan and Cavendish, the Frenchman clawed his way back to the bunch on the back of Groupama-FDJ’s oversized sprint train.
With Démare back in the peloton and bracing for a bunch sprint, Groupama made sure their two top rivals would never come back.
“What can you do, you’ve just got to try. Caleb was further behind us. If all of us were together we’d probably have got back,” Cavendish told Eurosport.
The Quick-Step-swamped gruppetto made its way into Messina a full 12 minutes after Démare demolished the remnants of the sprint field in Messina. Minds were already turned to Cavendish’s next chance.
“We knew also another flat day comes tomorrow, that’s also why we sat up today. We have our eyes for tomorrow,” Mørkøv said.
And Cavendish? The firey Manxman doesn’t like losing out – but maybe better to be beaten by a mountain than by the melée of a bunch sprint.
“You’re always disappointed but we knew that was going to happen today,” he said. “It was a bonus if we could sprint today but we had to try.”
The Giro hits the mainland Thursday and pan-flat stage awaits. Cavendish and Ewan will be dead-set for a sprint.