Mark Cavendish sprinted to victory in the 13th and longest stage of the Giro d’Italia yesterday, and favourite Vincenzo Nibali retained the overall lead to boost his chances of a first win in his home country’s biggest cycling race.
Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and defending champion Ryder Hesjedal withdrew from the race before the stage began. Team Sky cited Wiggins’s “worsening chest infection.” Hesjedal is more than 32 minutes behind and Team Garmin-Sharp said he pulled out because of a “deteriorating physical condition.”
Cavendish won in a time of six hours, nine minutes, 55 seconds to claim a second straight stage win, the fourth in this year’s Giro and his 101st career victory. The Briton was, as always, quick to praise his Omega Pharma team.
“I’m so tired, I don’t know how I’m going to recover from this before the mountains,” Cavendish said. “It’s a common misconception that sprinters are lazy. But the amount of effort it takes to do that, especially when you’re on the limit, it really damages you for a few days.
“I had to go from 350 metres after that hard day. I’m on my knees but all I could do was go. I had to go and not look back after what the guys had done all day. I actually didn’t want to go for the sprint today but the guys stayed with me on the climbs. You saw the work they did: the guys ride and ride until their legs won’t go anymore, and I’m so proud of that.”
Giacomo Nizzolo was second, with Luka Mezgec third in the 254-kilometre (158-mile) leg from Busseto to Cherasco.
Nibali, who finished third and second in his two previous Giro d’Italia races, maintained his 41-second lead over Cadel Evans. The mountain stages are coming at the weekend, which is the Australian’s preferred terrain.
Today’s stage will feature riders climbing Sestriere and Bardonecchia across a 168-kilometre (104-mile) route from Cervere. The race ends on 26 May in Brescia.