Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Mark Cavendish was dropped off for the sprint with 170m to go at the end of the 169km flat Giro d’Italia Stage 6 on Thursday, winning the stage that he soon dedicated to the memory of Wouter Weylandt. The entire team worked for him all day long, not only controlling breaks and protecting him, but also moving him into perfect position in the final kilometer.
OPQS rider Gert Steegmans was Cav’s final leadout man, bringing him perfectly up the middle of the scrambling peloton to launch his sprint. Elia Viviani (Cannondale ProCycling Team) was 2nd, and Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) 3rd.
Cavendish rushed to embrace his teammates after the win.
“I’m so happy right now, it was incredible,” Cavendish said immediately after the victory. “The leadout was absolutely perfect, nothing went wrong, it was beautiful. I’m absolutely buzzing. Imagine you have a kit car, something you’ve built from the start as we have this year with the leadout. You start it, ‘vroom vroom’ and you know, you have some fears about it, all those things having been put together, about being able to start the engine. I’m just the last part, the last one that makes the most noise. But when it works! That’s how you can win. I also want to dedicate this win to Wouter Weylandt, who died tragically at the Giro two years ago.”
This is the 26th win for OPQS, in three disciplines, in 2013. This is also the ninth UCI win for Cavendish, and the second of the Giro d’Italia. He now has 99 career wins.
“It was 100 percent beautiful today, and not just the leadout— from the beginning,” Cavendish said. “Bobridge and Wurf were two strong guys to have in the breakaway today. We had Serge Pauwels and Gianluca Brambilla pulling from the beginning and we were going strong. Really, really well and they kept going until the last kilometers. Then Jerome Pineau, Michal Golas, Iljo Keisse, and Matteo Trentin took over, and even Julien Vermote came up after getting dropped. He’s a young guy and he really rode today. These guys rode until their legs couldn’t go anymore. It was really incredible to see that, and this is all before the leadout. I haven’t seen riding like this in about a year. Today made me so, so proud.”
“Then the leadout was very, very hectic,” Cavendish continued. “With the crash it made everybody nervous. All the GC teams were there with even less than 3km to go, like BMC Racing Team and Sky, as well as the sprint teams. It was real, real chaos. I just tried to follow Gert Steegmans. He found my territory and then they timed it perfectly. There was always going to be a team that went too early with a headwind finish. My guys waited, waited, they were patient and they hit it at exactly the right time. They just went fast, fast, fast and they launched me perfectly and I was able to go to the line. I was really happy with it. Gert Steegmans showed today that when he’s at his best, he’s nearly the best leadout man there’s ever been.”