16-May-2013: Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team was left to do much of the work in the peloton, despite torrential rain in the 134km flat Giro d’Italia Stage 12 on Thursday. All of the team was on the front protecting and pulling for sprinter Mark Cavendish, in hopes of delivering him to the line for his 100th career victory, the third of the Giro d’Italia, and the 27th for OPQS cycling team — in three disciplines — in 2013.
The catch was not easy, however. OPQS went full gas and managed to pull back a five-rider breakaway inside the final few hundred meters, despite there being a minute gap for the escape group with 10km to go in the stage. Gert Steegmans was the final man for Cav and delivered him perfectly for the sprint.
Cavendish beat Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) and Luka Mezgec (Argos-Shimano) for the win.
“It was incredible,” Cavendish said. “We left it until right at the end. The break had a minute with 10km to go. That’s hard to pull back on a circuit in the rain. Cannondale came to the front but it was more left to my men. Young Julien Vermote pulled and pulled until his legs couldn’t come around anymore. Matteo Trentin normally would come to the front with about 1km to go, but with 2.5km to go he took over and just rode and rode. It wasn’t easy as we were close to not catching the break. Gert Steegmans could have gone and left me in ‘no man’s land,’ but he waited and waited. I was actually stressing a bit to be honest. But I’m so happy, my 100th win and what a way to do it with the guys. I’m so proud.”
The sprint was a lot more complicated than it looked, due to catching the break late, but also the wind.
“I knew the wind was coming from the left, but knew we had to start the sprint from the left because we caught the break,” Cavendish said. “So I just had to drift right to hopefully get the guys coming in the wind on the left. I was happy because I didn’t sense anybody at all. I didn’t want to celebrate though, because of the conditions. So, I just lifted one hand.”
The entire team worked for the entire stage, playing different roles that helped ensure the bunch sprint and the chance for Cavendish to get the victory once again.
“I’m happy that I could do it here at the Giro d’Italia, but more than the fact I’ve won here, I’m proud of how we did it,” Cavendish said. “We came here with the intentions of trying to win every sprint. We haven’t just won every sprint, we’ve won it quite convincingly. We controlled the peloton from start to finish today, in quite horrid conditions actually. The real experienced guys like Gert or Vermote, they just rode out of their skins. The guys went longer than what I thought was possible. From Brambilla and Serge riding on the front, to Golas, Keisse, and also Pineau bringing back a breakaway. It looks difficult to bring back when other teams don’t want to do it. Vermote rode at the end for about 5km, and then there was Matteo Trentin and Gert Steegmans really controlling the final. It could have been easy to get carried away and leave me alone too soon, but they didn’t do that today. They really rode with their heads, and also with their hearts, the whole team. They really did something special today, each and every one of them. So, that’s what has made me proud of this Giro more than the actual wins.”
Cavendish devoted the special victory to the team.
“It was really the best scenario I could have dreamed of,” Cavendish said.