Giro d'Italia 5: Cavendish sprints to win in Fano

World champion takes bunch sprint

This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.

Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) showed that he has put his stage 3 crash behind him when he held off a late challenge from Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) to win stage 5 of the Giro d'Italia into the Adriatic resort of Fano on Thursday.

Set up perfectly by his Sky teammates and led out equally well by Geraint Thomas in the final 500 metres, Cavendish began his sprint from 150 metres out. Orica-GreenEdge's Goss came around Colnago-CSF Inox's Sacha Modolo to push the Briton hard, but Cavendish had a bike length between him and the Australian at the line. Daniele Bennati (RadioShack-Nissan) came through to take third place, with Robert Hunter (Garmin-Barracuda) fourth.

The pink jersey will stay on the shoulders of Garmin-Barracuda's Ramunas Navardauskas, who finished safely in the bunch.

Cavendish adds to Giro victory tally

It was Cavendish's ninth stage win at the Giro. It had added personal significance for him as his girlfriend Peta Todd and baby daughter Delilah were waiting at the finish to greet him. The bonus seconds Cavendish gained for his victory pushed him up to fifth overall, and he is now 14 seconds down on race leader Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Barracuda), who finished safely in the bunch. Goss also moved up in the standings and now lies fourth overall, 13 seconds down on the Lithuanian.

"I didn't feel good all day with that many anti-inflammatories," said Cavendish. "I was suffering with the heat. It wore me out. I was comfortable on the climb, but I was dead at the finish. I could see Gossy's shadow the whole way, getting closer and closer. I was happy to hang on for the win.

"I'm very happy," he said. "My daughter and my girlfriend came to see me here, so I could not go wrong. It is a wonderful day! This is the first time they have seen me compete, and it is also the first time that Delilah has been with me on the podium. Did you notice that she is dressed in pink? We've now won two stages in this Giro. I would have liked to take another, but I couldn't because of the fall. However, I am feeling better every day, so hopefully others will come."

Goss looked at the positives after finishing second to the rider he used to lead out at HTC. "Today, Cavendish has shown he's the strongest. We made our move at the same moment, and I couldn't get ahead of him. Once he had made his jump, it was always going to be difficult to get on terms with him, but it is an honour to have a team behind me that believes in me."

Asked if he thought he can beat Cavendish, Goss said, "If I didn't think he was beatable, there wouldn't be any sense in me trying to take him on whenever I can."

Action starts from the gun

The 200km stage ran almost dead straight from Modena south-east to Fano. As soon as the flag was waved, Farnese Vini's Pier Paolo de Negri shot away to instigate the break of the day. Alessandro de Marchi (Androni Giocattoli) and Lotto-Belisol duo Olivier Kaisen and Brian Bulgac jumped across to join him in an escape that would last for 170km.

As the leading quartet worked to build up a lead that never went very much beyond six minutes, Garmin-Barracuda in particular ensured that a steady pace was maintained behind them. The American squad upped its pace slightly entering the second half of the stage, gradually eroding the advantage of the four breakaways.

What had been an incident-free stage until the riders were inside the final 50km took on a different complexion as the pace edged up once more as the peloton approached the only categorised climb of the day, with 35km remaining. A moment's inattention by Saxo Bank's Lucas Haedo resulted in him crashing. Former race leader Taylor Phinney (BMC) was also caught up, but was quickly back on his bike. While that was more bad luck for the young American, there was better to follow when he managed to avoid being swiped by the wing mirror of a passing RadioShack-Nissan team car.

The speed in the bunch was extremely fast from the moment the riders crossed the final climb of the day with 35km remaining. At that point, the four leaders still held an advantage of a minute, but it was falling fast. After De Negri had led over the top of the climb, Androni's De Marchi decided to make a move on his own. It was never likely to succeed, and in fact the Italian did well to hold off the bunch until the 20km mark as Liquigas-Cannondale and Astana set a fierce pace on the front of the bunch.

The final run-in

The bunch's speed was enough to drop several likely contenders for the stage win. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda) was one of the first to fall back and never regained contact despite a determined pursuit by teammate Jack Bauer. BMC's Thor Hushovd also fell back, as did Juan José Haedo (Saxo Bank) and the rider who caused the chaos on stage 3 in Horsens, Roberto Ferrari (Androni).

For almost all of the closing 20km, the bunch was completely lined out as Sky, FDJ-BigMat, Orica-GreenEdge and Liquigas-Cannondale all took a turn at pace-making. On such a straight road, there was little chance of anyone getting and then staying clear, although Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol) endeavoured to get away solo with 3.5km remaining. His attack was very short-lived as Sky gathered six riders on the front ahead of Cavendish.

Rigoberto Urán showed his racing legs are returning as he produced a long turn coming towards the final 2km, where Peter Kennaugh, Bernhard Eisel and then Ian Stannard took over. Orica-GreenEdge infiltrated the Sky line coming into the final kilometre, but Thomas managed to power his way to the front and launch Cavendish. For a moment, it looked like the world champion had gone too early as Goss began to close, but the Manxman delivered a final kick to assure his success.

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