British cyclist Mark Cavendish, riding for the High Road team, prevailed in a sprint for the fourth stage honors of the Giro d'Italia on Tuesday.
Liquigas’ Italian rider Franco Pellizotti retained the leader’s pink jersey after the 183km run to the seaside resort of Catanzaro on the Giro’s first day on the Italian mainland.
This was Cavendish’s first win in the event and he achieved it by proving too strong in the final push for the line from Germany’s Robert Forster and third stage winner, Daniele Bennati of Italy.
“This the biggest win of my career,” Cavendish told reporters.
“To come to the Giro and win is big for any rider but my first ever win was made sweeter by the way my team mates worked,” he said.
“They had faith in me, waited for me and took me back up to the sprinters after I was dropped on the last climb,” Cavendish said.
“It was a perfect show of team work and the only thing I could do was finish it off with a win,” he said.
Cavendish has won 16 races in the last 18 months but said he was not the best sprinter in cycling.
“I’m definitely not the strongest. I’m not even in the top 10 of strong sprinters. But my age plays an important factor. I’m able to accelerate pretty well and I’m probably the fastest in the last 200m,” he said.
“The problem is that I’ve got to be up there to be able to win,” the Briton said.
Cavendish turned professional last year with the Germany T-Mobile team but first became a successful rider on the track with the British Cycling Federation.
“I’m the happiest man in the world,” Pellizotti said. “Tomorrow [Wednesday] I hope to retain the jersey. We’re about to come up against the important stages.”
The final kilometer was marred by a mass spill which fractured the peloton.
Belgian Rik Verbrugghe took the race by the scruff of the neck from the off, remaining in front until 20km from the line.
The former pink jersey wearer — he wore it briefly in 2001 — had built up an 11 minute cushion at the 110km mark but was eventually reeled in by a chasing pack marshalled by several teams doing the donkey work for their top sprinters.
One of these teams was High Road, whose plan to unleash the 21-year-old Isle of Man-born Cavendish worked to perfection.
This was the budding sprinters’ fifth win of the season and he was adding it to his success with compatriot Bradley Wiggins in the men’s Madison gold at the world track cycling championships in Manchester in March.
One rider who would not be lining up for yesterday’s 203km fifth stage between Belvedere Marittimo to Contursi Terme near Salerno was Belgian Nick Nuyens.
The Cofidis rider has had to pull out after fracturing his shoulder blade in a fall at the finish.