Giro d'Italia: Britain's Mark Cavendish sprints to victory on opening stage in Naples
Last Updated: 05/05/13 2:24pm
Mark Cavendish celebrates with the Union Jack after victory in Naples
Mark Cavendish powered into the leader's jersey at the Giro d'Italia by outsprinting his rivals to win the opening stage in Naples.
The Manxman was guided into contention by his Omega Pharma - Quick-Step team-mates as the largely flat opener reached its conclusion and was one of only nine riders left to contest the victory after crashes in the peloton and a twisting city circuit drastically thinned out the bunch.
Indeed, Cavendish did well to shut down a gap singlehandedly in the final kilometre before producing his trademark late burst to edge out Cannondale's Elia Viviani and FDJ rider Nacer Bouhanni.
That performance saw Cavendish take control of the famous pink jersey and time bonuses ensured he opened up an eight-second advantage over Viviani in the general classification, with Bouhanni a further four seconds adrift.
Sir Bradley Wiggins rolled home 18 seconds back on his friend and former Team Sky team-mate, safely among a large cluster of riders which included all of the main general classification contenders.
The first Grand Tour of the season kicked off under bright and sunny skies in what was always billed as a battle of the sprint teams for the opening 'maglia rosa'.
As soon as the flag dropped it was Omega Pharma - Quick-Step who moved to the head of affairs, the Belgian team controlling things as seven men headed up the road.
The escapees battled it out for the mountain points on their two ascents of a sole fourth-category climb with Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) coming out on top for a spell in the blue jersey.
With a sprint finish always on the cards, Cameron Wurf took matters into his own hands as the stage neared its conclusion, putting time into his fellow escapees who were caught with 71km to go.
The Cannondale man's own days were numbered in the last 25km as the peloton eventually swept him up, and the pace that was set on the front of the bunch deterred any further attacks.
That speed was ramping up all the time on the narrow and twisting circuit, and something eventually gave in the last 3km when a large crash decimated the race. Fortunately, no-one appeared seriously injured in the pile-up, and Cavendish was perfectly positioned to capitalise in the closing stages by holding his nerve and sealing his biggest victory of the season so far.
After the stage Cavendish said: "It was a difficult stage for me with all the corners and accelerations but the team did an incredible job today on the front.
"We didn't get it quite right at the end due to some mechanical problems but I managed to get on GreenEdge's train. I was in the red with it being so hot out there but I wanted this so bad because my good friend Paul Smith designed the jersey and I promised him I'd be wearing it today.
"We wanted to get it right because of that and I'm happy we won the first stage."
Stage one result
1 Mark Cavendish (GB) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, 2:58:38
2 Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale, same time
3 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ, st
4 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) RadioShack-Leopard, st
5 Matthew Goss (Aus) Orica-GreenEDGE, st
6 Francisco Ventoso (Spa) Movistar, st
7 Adam Blythe (GB) BMC, st
8 Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica-GreenEDGE, st
9 Danilo Hondo (Ger) RadioShack-Leopard, st
10 Brett Lancaster (Aus) Orica-GreenEDGE, st
58 Alex Dowsett (GB) Movistar, st
64 Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky, st
176 Steve Cummings (GB) BMC, st
204 David Millar (GB) Garmin-Sharp, st
1 Mark Cavendish (GB) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, 2:58:18
2 Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale, +8secs
3 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ, +12
4 Danilo Hondo (Ger) RadioShack-Leopard, +16
5 Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM, +18
6 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) RadioShack-Leopard, +20
7 Matthew Goss (Aus) Orica-GreenEDGE, same time
8 Francisco Ventoso (Spa) Movistar, st
9 Adam Blythe (GB) BMC, st
10 Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica-GreenEDGE, st
64 Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky, +20