Britain's Mark Cavendish bade farewell to this year's Tour of Italy by sprinting to his second stage win on Thursday as Spaniard Alberto Contador retained the overall leader's pink jersey. The HTC-Highroad rider won the 12th stage over relatively flat terrain from Castelfidardo to Ravenna ahead of Italian duo Davide Appollonio and Alessandro Petacchi. It was the last stage for the 25-year-old sprint ace in this year's race as he announced he was withdrawing before it heads to the mountain stages.
"I'm going home to recuperate before the Tour de France," explained Cavendish, who was accused of cheating by fellow riders who claimed he was towed up Mount Etna on the back of a car in Sunday's stage. But the Briton went on to win Tuesday and Thursday's stages before withdrawing citing the lack of possibilities for sprinters before the end of the Giro on May 29 in Milan.
"I'm really pleased, the Giro is a very important race for me, there aren't any more sprint stages in this year's race and I really wanted to get another win here," said Cavendish. "Winning today was really important, my team-mates had worked all day with no help at all from any other squad and I wanted to thank them for it by winning. They did an incredible job. Then I started up my sprint with 200 meters to go and I managed to get it."
Cavendish said that he had managed to avoid a last-kilometer crash in the bunch because his team had foreseen there could be problems. "We had seen before the stage, in the route-book, that it might be difficult, we knew we had to be close to the front, and we got through it ok."
The HTC team, led by Australian Mark Renshaw, who is also set to quit the race, controlled the stage, which was hampered by a pileup of riders 1500 meters from the line. Under the blazing sunshine on the Adriatic coast, three-time Tour de France winner Contador of the Saxo Bank team had an easier ride, arriving with the peloton.
Cavendish's Giro victory is the 66th professional road win of his career and the fourth of the 2011 season. It is also his seventh Giro stage victory. The Giro is set for three days in the mountains with Friday's 13th stage over 167km from Spilimbergo, northeast of Venice, to Grossglockner, Austria's highest mountain.
Giro d'Italia Stage 12
1. Mark Cavendish (GBR/HTC) 4:17:25
2. Davide Appollonio (ITA/SKY) @ s.t
3. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA/LAM)
4. Roberto Ferrari (ITA/AND)
5. Gerald Ciolek (GER/QST)
6. Fabio Sabatini (ITA/LIQ)
7. Manuel Belletti (ITA/COG)
8. Mirco Selvaggi (ITA/VAC)
9. Mark Renshaw (AUS/HTC)
10. Manuel Cardoso (POR/RSH)
22. Alberto Contador (ESP/SAX) s.t.
85. Denis Menchov (RUS/GEO)
120. Carlos Sastre (ESP/GEO)
176. Danilo Di Luca (ITA/KAT)
Overall Classification After Stage 12
1. Alberto Contador (ESP/SAX) 4:37:51
2. Kanstantsin Siutsou (BLR/HTC) @ 0:59
3. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/LIQ) @ 1:21
4. Christophe Le Mével (FRA/GRM) @ 1:28
5. Michele Scarponi (ITA/LAM) @ 1:28
6. David Arroyo (ESP/MOV) @ 1:37
7. Roman Kreuziger (CZE/AST) @ 1:41
8. José Serpa Perez (COL/AND) @ 1:47
9. Dario Cataldo (ITA/QST) @ 2:21
10. Matteo Carrara (ITA/VAC) @ 2:21