Britain’s Mark Cavendish claimed his second win on the 96th Giro d’Italia on Thursday when he dominated a bunch sprint at the end of the 169km sixth stage between Mola di Bari and Margherita di Savoia, Italy.
Cavendish burst out from behind the wheel of Omega Pharma-Quick-Step teammate Gert Steegmans to finish ahead of Italian Elia Viviani and Australian Matt Goss.
“I’m so happy, I’m absolutely buzzing,” said Cavendish, who now has 12 victories on the three-week race having won the opener in Naples last Saturday.
Cannondale Pro Cycling’s Viviani, who was left banging on his handlebars in frustration when Cavendish beat him in the opening stage, said this time he had no argument.
“In Naples I came close, but today Mark was definitely No. 1,” said the Italian, a former track rider, who is still looking for his first professional victory on the road. “I took his wheel and looked to benefit from some of his slipstream, but there was no way I could get past him. But I’ll be trying again.”
Italian Luca Paolini of the Katusha team retained the race leader’s maglia rosa.
Paolini, who is not an overall victory contender, is expected to give up the pink jersey after or before today’s first big battle between the favorites on stage eight’s 54.8km time trial between Gabicce Mare and Saltara, Italy.
Of the overall contenders, Italian Vincenzo Nibali is best placed in fourth at 31 seconds adrift, with defending champion Ryder Hesjedal and race favorite Bradley Wiggins, the defending Tour de France champion, in fifth and sixth respectively, 34 seconds back.
Another former Tour winner, Australian Cadel Evans, remained 10th, 42 seconds off the pace.
In a frantic finish to the race, Wiggins was the victim of two incidents that could have cost him time.
First he suffered a mechanical problem which required his Sky Pro Cycling team to dig deep to rejoin the main peloton containing all his rivals.
Just as they had closed the gap, a crash which took down several riders occurred 34km from the finish line, allowing a number of small groups to pull off the front.
Wiggins’ fears, though, were allayed in the final kilometers as teammate Christian Knees, and other teams with maglia rosa contenders, kept the pace high at the front, before the sprinters’ teams took over for their fast men in the closing 5km.
“Bradley needed a bike change minutes before that crash, so although he wasn’t involved in it, he did get stuck behind it,” Knees said. “The boys did a brilliant job pacing him back on, but I got caught up the road. It was so loud in the bunch that I couldn’t hear over the race radio what had happened behind me until it was too late. This was the last sprint day for a while, so that’s why it was so hectic and we knew we had to stay safe at the front. In the end we did that, so we’re all happy with how things turned out.”
Yesterday’s seventh stage was a 177km ride over undulating terrain, which then finishes on flat terrain, which should again suit Cavendish.