Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) dedicated his second win of the Giro d'Italia to Wouter Weylandt, who died two years ago today on a stage of the Giro. Cavendish took the stage by a bike length from Elia Viviani (Cannondale) and Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge). Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) was fourth banging his handlebars in frustration.
The sprint came after a fast stage that saw two pile-ups in the last 35 kilometres. Cavendish managed to avoid both thanks to a well-drilled performmance from his lead out train, led by the ever present Gert Steegmans, who he hugged immediately the peloton had crossed the line. Luca Paolini was also safely up the front during the crashes and retained the maglia rosa for another day, perhaps his last.
Cavendish likens team to kit car, calls himself the exhaust
After the race Cavendish described how his team came good for the sprint, "Imagine if you get a kit car. You build it, you start it and it goes brmmm. You know that feeling? It's like that. There are all the bits of the engine. I am just the exhaust, the last bit that makes all the noise. That's how it feels, everything just fits together. If you do everything right you do it better than the others."
The bulk of the day was given over to a long break by Aussie duo Jack Bobridge (Blanco) and Cameron Wurf (Cannondale) who escaped at 14km covered and remained out in front until the race entered the first of the two 16km circuits of the finish. There are had already been a multi-rider crash at 40km when a second much bigger pile-up choked the finishing straight.
With barriers hemming the riders in a traffic jam developed. Trapped behind it was Bradley Wiggins whio had had to change bikes and was racing to catch-up. The scenes of chaos saw riders wading through the melee wiht their bikes held aloft. Ahead around 40 riders were unaffected but Ag2R and Luca Paolini's Katusha were obviously workign to keep a lid on any idea of taking advantage. There weren't that many kilometres left to allow the bulk of the peloton to regroup but a feverish catchup led by Sky saw a regroupement after about 13 kilometres.
With the race back to a semblence of the pre-crash situation the pace picked up, led on the front by Bradley Wiggins. He couldn't afford another crash, not until the peloton was safely past the 3km to go point when anyone crashign would be unaffected on time. He duly peeled off with about 2.8 kilometres left. From then on it was a fast and furious charge. All eyes were on Cavendish who duly delivered. The desperation to be there for the battle saw indiscipline from Mattia Gavazzi (Androni Giocattoli) who yanked Robbie Hunter (Garmin-Sharp) out of the way. Hunter didn't take kindly to the Italian's methods and the two had a heated exchange after the line, with Gavazzi quickly offering conciliation.
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Tomorrows stage 7 is a bumpy 177km from Marina di Salvo to Pescara, starting and finishing on the coast but looping inland. None of the climbs are taxing in their own right but the the sheer number of them will make the liklihood of an out and out sprinter's victory unlikely.