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Mark Cavendish wasn’t going to let anyone pass him this time.
Just days after Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream) relegated Cavendish to a rare second place in Friday’s third stage, Cavendish evened the score in Tuesday’s 169km finale at the 44th Tirreno-Adriatico.
Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) tried in vain to sprint early, but Cavendish darted past him in easy work to win for the fifth time in 2009. Farrar trailed through second in another strong performance for the American while Baden Cooke (Vacansoleil) took third.
“I don’t think it was revenge,” Cavendish said. “Tyler had a great sprint, the sprint of his career the other day, so you cannot take anything away from it. It was just the case of getting a win. I like to get a win in every stage race that I do, so I wanted to get one here. I didn’t get it the other day, so I wanted to get it today.”
Italian rider Michele Scarponi (Diquigiovanni) finished safely in the main pack to wrap up the overall lead.
Rounding out the podium was Stefano Garzelli (Acqua e Sapone) with second at 25 seconds back and Andreas Klöden (Astana) in third at 1:07 off the pace.
Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Slipstream) slotted in at eighth at 2:33 for another solid showing by the Canadian.
No Italian stage race would be complete without a no-hope escape attempt by Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha).
The young Russia tried again in the 169km stage starting and finishing in San Benedetto del Tronto. Following his wheel were Wim de Vocht (Vacansoleil) and Oliver Kaisen (Silence-Lotto) and the trio opened up a promising gap on the 86km loop through some steep hills just off the spectacular Adriatic coast.
With seven closing laps on a 10km circuit, the trio held a six-minute gap, but Columbia, Liquigas and LPR sent fresh legs up to the front to slowly chip away at their lead.
With two laps to go, Danilo Di Luca was leading the chase to reduce the gap to 1:36.
Ignatiev went alone on the final lap, but the pack was only 28 seconds down with 2km to go. He was swarmed with about 1.5km to go to set up the sprint.
Cavendish lashes out to British press
Katusha’s Filippo Pozzato shot away with just over 1km to go in an effort to break up the main pack and help position Robbie McEwen for the sprint.
Columbia’s George Hincapie shut down the move and gave Cavendish a perfect lead-out to cap a strong week for the American veteran with 17th overall.
As expected, some of the top sprinters didn’t challenge for the win, namely Alessandro Petacchi (LPR) and Tom Boonen (Quick Step). Petacchi was 12th while Boonen sat up and finished 137th at 1:20 back.
“It’s not worth risking a crash that could ruin several months of hard work to win a stage at the end of Tirreno,” Boonen said at the line. “I want to win on Saturday and I don’t want to get into a silly crash here.”
Cavendish didn’t buy into that logic, but by his own reckoning, he’s not going to be a top favorite for his Milan-San Remo debut this weekend, so a win at Tirreno was worth it.
The long, wide-open finishing sprint didn’t present a technical challenge.
“I don’t understand that,” Cavendish said. “It’s a sprint, sure, there’s always a risk, but no more than if they crash at Milan-San Remo. If they crash there, they’re not going to win.”
With the victory, Cavendish lives up to his promise to try to win at least once at every stage race this season. The streak started with two wins at the Tour of Qatar and two at the Tour of California.
Cavendish also had some choice words when a British reporter suggested that he was well-known for taking his defeats badly.
“The British press as a whole seems to dwell now only on the negative things I do. They say, okay, he won four stages at the Tour because all the big sprinters weren’t there,” he said. “And it’s always the British press who say, ‘oh, now we need to see him against the best riders in the world.’
“The other day was the first day I had a sprint against Petacchi, maybe this is what cost me the stage because I didn’t know how big my jump was compared to him. I went when he went, and it was too early and Farrar was able to win,” he said “Today was another big chance to win a sprint against the best in the world and I wanted to show, that last year, it doesn’t matter who was there or who wasn’t there, I’m still the best sprinter in the world.”
Farrar gaining confidence
Even though he couldn’t come around Cavendish this time, Farrar was more than satisfied with second place.
It once again confirms Farrar’s rising status as a sprinter to reckon with. Growing support from the Garmin-Slipstream team also helps.
“The guys were amazing for me in the end. Martijn probably pulled 15km in the wind for me, moving me up, then Julian took me to the last few kilometers, it was awesome. They just did so much for me and got me right where I needed to be,” he told VeloNews. “Cavendish just got me today. No way about it, but I’m still pretty happy about it.”
The important victory in Friday’s third stage, when he was able to come around Cavendish to claim the flowers, will help fuel his ambitions in the coming weeks and months.
“It’s been a great race for me. My objective was to win sprints this year and I am up there,” he said. “The team is starting to believe in me and it will just build more and more. Hopefully there will be a lot more wins.”
Garmin-Slipstream will head to Rimini to regroup ahead of Milan-San Remo.
Farrar said the team will likely rally around the more experienced legs of Julian Dean.
“San Remo it’s a different race. I think I have more confidence in Julian than for myself,” he said. “It’s 300K. I’ve only done San Remo once in my career, so we’ll see what happens, we’ll talk as the race goes on.”
Stage 7 results
1. Mark Cavendish (GBR) Columbia 4hr 9min 46sec,
2. Tyler Farrar (USA)
Garmin same time,
3. Baden Cooke (AUS) Vacansoleil s.t.,
4. Daniele Bennati
(ITA) Liquigas s.t.,
5. Yauheni Hutarovich (BLR) Francaise des Jeux s.t.,
Angelo Furlan (ITA) Lampre s.t.,
7. Aurelien Clerc (SUI) AG2R s.t.,
Napolitano (ITA) Katusha s.t.,
9. Luca Paolini (ITA) Acqua e Sapone s.t.,
Allan Davis (AUS) Quick Step s.t.
Final overall standings
1. Michele Scarponi (ITA) Diquigiovanni 27hr 32min 22sec,
Garzelli (ITA) Acqua e Sapone at 25sec,
3. Andreas Kloden (GER) Astana 1:07,
4. Thomas Lovkvist (SWE) Columbia 1:10,
5. Ivan Basso (ITA) Liquigas 1:13,
Davide Rebellin (ITA) Diquigiovanni 2:06,
7. Linus Gerdemann (GER) Milram
8. Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) Garmin 2:33,
9. Kanstantsin Siutsou (BLR)
10. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) Liquigas 2:54