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The retiring Manxman kicked out of Movistar sprinter Fernando Gaviria’s wheel on the final straight of the Roma circuit on Sunday’s 21st stage to clinch his first victory for Astana Qazaqstan and his 17th career win at the corsa rosa.
“I’m super happy,” Cavendish said at the finish. “It was a long hard slog to get here to the end of the Giro, and we came close a couple times before.
“My boys [Astana-Qazaqstan] did incredibly, and my friends did incredibly. I had some great long-time friends here today. I’m pretty emotional to be fair,” he said, choking on his words.
Cavendish was jubilant at the finish line, and the peloton mobbed the veteran sprinter.
His victory came off the back of a controlling pull from former teammate and long-term friend Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) in a win that transcended team borders.
“I made the prediction he’d win so I had to make it happen,” Thomas said at the line Sunday. “I saw he only had Luis Léon (Sánchez) with him, so I thought ‘help a brother out.'”
Cavendish came full circle with his 17th Giro victory Sunday.
Fifteen years after a breakout win on stage 4 of his grand tour debut, the Manx repeated the feat with his swansong sprint in the center of Rome.
“My first grand tour victory was in 2008 at the Giro. To win here in Rome, it’s beautiful,” he said. “It’s a bucket-list sprint to be able to do … I’m so happy, so so happy.”
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) sealed the overall victory when he rolled safe into the finish behind Cavendish and the sprinters.
The Slovenian was decked out in pink and rode a pink bike through Sunday’s 21st stage after he made his beyond-belief GC raid on Saturday’s Monte Lussari TT.
Roglič added the maglia rosa to one of the deepest palmarès in the active peloton after he finished the stage unscathed Sunday.
The 33-year-old’s huge roll of honor already includes three Vuelta a España titles, Olympic time trial gold, and victories at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and a long list of top-tier stage races.
Sunday’s stage through the streets of Roma began with an hour of processional photo opportunities and back-slapping as riders breathed relief after what was one of the most attritional Giri in memory.
— Giro d’Italia (@giroditalia) May 28, 2023
A wave of COVID and near-constant rain drowned out the first half of the race, and the high mountains did more damage this week.
Only 125 of the 176 riders that started the opening Abruzzo TT came to the line in Roma, making for 51 non-finishers of an extra-grueling three-week tour.
Sunday’s short final stage only gained heat after Jumbo-Visma let Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Maxime Bouet (Arkéa-Samsic) go at the close of the first of six picture-postcard circuits through the historic center of Roma.
The catch was made at the gateway to the final 13km lap.
Canadian sensation Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) tried a wild flyer at 4km to go but didn’t get far as Movistar worked to set up the sprint.
Gee was caught by Movistar before Ineos Grenadier racer Thomas kept the pace high into the final kilometer on behalf of Cavendish and his Astana team.
Bahrain-Victorious led the bunch into the final sprint as it tried to set up Jonathan Milan for one last win, and a crash brought down UAE Emirates’ fastman Pascal Ackermann.
Gaviria went extra-early, but Cavendish marked his wheel. The Manx came around at 150m to go and galloped to clear victory for his 162nd career win.
Wrapping up the azzurra, bianca, ciclamino jerseys
The day finished with podium presentations for all the classifications.
Thibaut Pinot was handed the maglia azzurra of top climber in what was the Frenchman’s last Giro d’Italia before be retires in the winter.
The Groupama-FDJ star finished fifth on the general classification and twice came close to stage victory in a race that may lead some to question his exit from the sport aged only 32.
João Almeida (UAE Emirates) added the maglia bianca to his third-place overall, a career-first grand tour leader’s jersey to mark his best three-week race to date.
And Jonathan Milan (Bahrain-Victorious) stoked a fire in the tifosi when he topped the podium and donned the maglia ciclamino of points champion. The strapping sprinter and track ace had a dream grand tour debut by winning the distinctive jersey and blitzing to a stage victory and four second-place finishes.
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