This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) claimed his third Giro d'Italia stage win in what was the best bunch sprint of the race so far. It also demonstrated the Briton’s ability to remain cool and plot a way to the front when for several moments it seemed that his chance had gone.
After his Sky lead-out train had taken over the pace-making 1500m from the finish in Cervere, Cavendish found himself trapped against the left-hand barriers going into the final 500m when Orica-GreenEdge came through very close on their right to set up Matt Goss. For a couple of seconds, it looked like Cavendish would get lost in the pack behind the Australian and his team-mates, but the Manxman showed why he is a master at getting out of a tight situation as he picked his way through half a dozen riders.
With two Sky riders still ahead of him but not able to allow him past as Goss’s train steamed by, Cavendish moved across onto the wheel of Garmin’s Robbie Hunter as the sprint was launched. The world champion then jumped into a gap that opened up alongside the left-hand barriers, freewheeled momentarily as the gap closed, then once again saw daylight ahead and was off towards it in an instant.
At the line he was more than a bike length clear of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), with Mark Renshaw (Rabobank) third. Goss finished in sixth place and lost significant ground on Cavendish in the battle for the red points jersey.
“It’s taken me a week to recover from the crash that I had but every day I’m feeling better and better,” said Cavendish.
Rodriguez - can he defend for another eight stages?
There was no change in the overall standings. Joaquim Rodríguez retained the pink jersey going into a crucial weekend of racing, featuring back-to-back summit finishes. In fact, the shortest road stage of the race was also the quietest so far, run at a steady rather than a frantic pace and with few incidents of note until the closing moments.
Martijn Keizer (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Francesco Failli (Farnese Vini) went clear in the opening kilometres, opening a gap of five-and-a-half minutes with 40km covered. That was as much leeway as they were allowed. Sky and FDJ joined forces to set a steady pace behind them. The two-man escape was finally nullified with 21km remaining.
From then on, the main interest was in seeing which sprint line could dominate the pace-making. In fact, no one team could for very long as all of the sprinters and overall contenders seemed determined to stick close to the front. At times there were three or four separate trains spearheading the front of the bunch.
The only break from this fascinating duel came on a rise with 6.5km left. Fabio Felline (Androni), Julien Berard (Ag2r) and Julien Vermote (Omega Pharma) went away, but were reeled in by the bunch after just 2km of freedom. Saxo Bank briefly took over at the front, only to lose out to Sky, who didn’t get their lead-out right but still came away with the win thanks to their sprinter’s quick thinking and blistering acceleration.