Tuesday, January 18, 2022
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Giro d’Italia 2013 – Stage 6: Mola di Bari – Margherita di Savoia, 169km. Kit Car Cav.

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There are aspects of the sprinting phenomenon which is ‘Cav’ that don’t rest easy with me here at the Giro d’Italia.

The baby and Paul Smith on the podium, mouthing off about his team, the swearing…

But when I see him sprint, I could forgive him just about anything.

Giro d'Italia
Mark Cavendish finishes the “perfect stage” for his team in Margherita Di Savoia. Photo©Tim De Waele

He has the coolness under fire, the spacial awareness, the grinta and the raw speed – but most of all he wants to win so badly.

Maybe that’s why he says inappropriate things about his team; defeat hurts him so much that the emotion pours out – he’s disappointed in himself and his boys because he knows that they all could have done better.

Elia Viviani is rapid, I first saw him in action at the Grenoble Six Day a few years ago; he was posting lap times not that far behind those of Gregory Bauge and Kevin Sireau.

It’s apparent that consciously the Italian isn’t scared of Cav – but the problem which all the sprinters have is that in their sub-conscious mind they know that the Manxman is virtually unbeatable.

But it’s their job to try and beat him.

Matt Goss just doesn’t seem to have the edge he did a year or two ago.

Vik’s theory is that the Orica-GreenEdge team is a wee bit too cosy, all those Aussies – lots of fun, but who’s cracking the whip?

Italy is in thrall of the Giro each year. PhotoGian Mattia D'Alberto
Italy is in thrall of the Giro each year, but Wiggins has support too. Photo©Gian Mattia D’Alberto

For me, from the current crop of fast chargers if there’s a bona fide Cav challenger then its F des J’s French champion Nacer Bouhanni.

He has that sprinters’ arrogance about him, he doesn’t seem overawed by Cav and is seriously fast.

If you watch the video of Stage 6 below, check out the rate at which he crosses the finish line…

Giro d'Italia
Li Cheng didn’t start today following his spill yesterday. Photo©Ferrari

There could be no criticism of QuickStep today, they were excellent.

They rode tempo on Bobridge and Wurf, kept calm through the crashes and moments when it looked like they may be washed away and delivered Cav immaculately.

When Steegmans is good in the lead out role, he’s one of the very best in the world.

F des J too did their share – but GreenEdge are getting themselves a bad rep for letting other teams do the work and then setting their train up very late in the day.

In the unspoken protocol of the pro peloton, that’s not the thing to do, especially when there are Pro Continental teams well in the mix.

But I do miss Super Mario’s trains; those Acqua e Sapone and Domina Vacanze boys in their prime were a sight to behold – with Mario Scirea not only the man who could ride fastest for longest but the brains of the operation.

No quarter asked or given; he once rode a rider who had infiltrated the train into the barriers, he took himself down too – but the point was made that you didn’t mess with Scirea and his men.

And Cav must look back to those heady days of Tony Martin, Mark Renshaw and Matt Goss at HTC – now that was a train…

The Gazzetta hunt was successful; and they like Luca Paolini.

Giro d'Italia
“The beautiful debutant”.

‘The beautiful debutant,’ says the headline; at 36 riding his first Giro and taking the maglia rosa with great panache.

He’s first rider from Como to wear the jersey and only the third rider from Como to win a stage.

His victory gesture meant ‘the head and the heart’ and somehow didn’t make me feel nearly as ill as babies’ dummies getting poked into gobs or imaginary arrows being fired.

I listed his palmares the other day but had actually missed his Worlds U23 silver in Verona behind Leonardo Giordani in 1999.

Giordani is still around, with Vini Fantini, but never found his feet in the Elite ranks the way that Paolini did.

Giro d'Italia
The jury is still out on whether the new style helmets will catch on with the buying public. Photo©Gian Mattia D’Alberto

The Gazzetta gives Paolini 10/10 for his day’s work – and they’re not known for chucking praise around lightly – whilst Hejedal gets 8.5 for his aggression.

Stage 7 doesn’t have a nice flat salt marsh finish for Cav; within the 177 K from Marina di San Salvo to Pescara there are 3,300 metres of climbing so we may well get a big shake of the GC crisp bag even before the chrono…

Ciao, ciao.