If you want to beat Mark Cavendish, you need a decent team effort. Sadly for his rivals, the only team that was organised for the sprint finish of Stage 6 of the Giro d’Italia were Cavendish’s Omega Pharma-Quick Step team mates.
A crash that held up two thirds of the peloton with 30 kilometres in the stage may offer some excuse, but the leadout trains of Cavendish’s rivals all got the finish horribly wrong.
In the last two kilometers it was hard to find any team with more than 2 riders together, whereas Cavendish had the luxury of 3 riders in front of him. Argos-Shimano rolled to the front with a kilometer left, which was not only too early but was strange as their sprinter John Degenkolb didn’t seem to be at the front of the peloton.
Cannondale and FDJ, who had worked tirelessly on the stage for their sprinters Elia Viviani and Nacer Bouhanni, were nowhere to be seen. Orica GreenEDGE lost most of their riders in the earlier crash, forcing Matt Goss to try and follow his rivals wheels to the finish line.
Mattia Gavazzi (Androni Giocattoli – Venezuela) and Robbie Hunter (Garmin-Sharp) had no team mates to help them out, and made matters worse by almost colliding, infuriating Gavazzi who sought out Hunter to let him know what he thought about the South African’s riding ability.
And so with 500 metres left to go, Bert Steegmans of Omega-Pharma Quick Step burst to the front with his team mate Cavendish safely tucked behind him and the result wasn’t never in doubt. Steegmans peeled off and Cavendish raised his arms in delight as Viviani, Goss and Bouhanni all fought for 2nd place, finishing in that order.
Much has been made of the failed attempts to lead out Cavendish by his team mates this season, but they got this one right, and when his team gets things right, he’s a very hard man to beat.
After crossing the line, Cavendish dismounted his bike immediately and sought out Steegman, unable to hide his delight at the big Belgian’s efforts in delivering him to the finish perfectly. After the race, Cavendish said he was buzzing at his teams efforts and said his team is like a car, and he’s like the exhaust – an odd analogy but I think we all get what he was trying to say – when his team fires, his job is an awful lot easier.
Cavendish also dedicated his win to Wouter Weylandt, the young Beligan rider who tragically died in an accident at the Giro two years ago to the day.
It was Cavendish’s second stage win in this year’s Giro, and if his team replicate that sort of effort again, it won’t be his last.
The top ten in the General Classification remained unchanged, with the riders all finishing on the same time of Cavendish. Luca Paolini of Katusha retains the Maglia Rosa as the overall leader, with Rigoberto Uran of Sky 17 seconds behind him and Benat Intxausti Elorriaga of Movistar a further 9 seconds back. Australian Cadel Evans of BMC Racing is still tenth, 42 seconds behind Paoloini.
Tomorrow’s stage from Marina di San Salvo to Pescara won’t offer the chances for the sprinters to gain revenge on Cavendish, 4 categorised climbs in the 177 kilometre course likely to lend itself to a Classics rider or even a breakaway succeeding.