You probably know that the third and final week of the Giro d’Italia began today (a rest day). And you’re probably wondering why I’m not writing my usual paeans to Mark Cavendish, like I do during Tours de France. After all, he’s won three stages already — 2, 4, and 13 — and might have won a couple more if not for crashes. Plus, he’s comfortably ahead in the points classification, on his way to a likely red jersey.
And all this while riding for a new team, without the support of leadout rider extraordinaire and buddy Mark Renshaw. With HTC-Highroad bowing out of cycling, Cavendish signed with Team Sky while Renshaw joined Rabobank. The end of a great partnership. For the Giro, Cavendish has had the support of new teammate Geraint Thomas in the sprint finishes.
I’ve had trouble following the Giro though. I can’t seem to find it on Comcast. It’s broadcast in the US by Universal Sports, which used to be 115 in my cable package, but when I go to 115, I get something altogether different, and when I systematically search through all channels, I don’t find it. Thus, I’m reduced to following on the web.
Of course, I do have a job. Not starting each morning watching the Giro isn’t the worst thing in the world. And seeing the Italian video highlights has its charms. Like last Friday’s finish. Team Sky wasn’t properly organized at first, but just in time, they put Cavendish in position. He made his characteristic burst, crossing the line to the announcer’s shriek, “Cav-en-dish-a! Cav-en-dish-a! Cav-en-dish-a!”
For more on Cavendish’s stage win Friday, here is The Guardian’s James Callow reporting:
Mark Cavendish continued his dominance of a sport usually ruled by the finest of victory margins with his third stage win of the 2012 Giro d’Italia.
The Team Sky rider defeated Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff to take stage 13 by a bike length, with Mark Renshaw of Rabobank in third, but that hardly tells the story.
As the race’s fastest men strained for the finishing line over the final few hundred metres into the Piedmontese town of Cervere, Cavendish ceased pedalling, dropped behind the leading group and then easily outstripped them from a more open position.
It was the Manxman’s 10th career stage victory in the Giro and 33rd victory in all grand tours, taking him to within two wins of Freddy Maertens, who lies ninth in the all-time rankings. At 26 years old he may eye Eddy Merckx’s record of 64 stage wins with fascination, even if he knows he will struggle to beat it.
“I’m really, really happy and it’s nice to finally get another win,” Cavendish said. “The guys just rode their hearts out again today and I’m so, so proud. After they did that I had to win, I had to find some gap to get through.
“It was just a question of waiting for that moment and then taking my chance. It was a headwind finish which probably played into my hands a little bit after leaving it late.”
If Cavendish’s finish bore the mark of a rider at his improvisational best, his Sky team-mates had delivered him into a position where a rider of his talent would have been unfortunate not to win.
And memories of the pain from his high-speed crash in the third stage, when he was brought down by Roberto Ferrari, are finally receding. “It’s taken me a week to recover from the crash that I had but every day I’m feeling better and better,” said Cavendish.