In the saddle: Cavendish pretty in pink after Giro's second day

Mark Cavendish leads the Giro d’Italia despite being pipped by Alessandro Petacchi in a controversial sprint finish to yesterday’s stage, writes Cillian Kelly.

Image: Giovanni Auletta/AP/Press Association Images

THE GIRO D’ITALIA, the first of this year’s Grand Tours, got underway on Saturday. The first stage was a team time trial and was won by the HTC-Columbia team. Italian time trial champion Marco Pinotti was the first rider from this team over the finish line which meant he was this year’s first wearer of the pink leader’s jersey, the maglia rosa.

Yesterday’s stage ended in a controversial bunch sprint where Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) narrowly pipped Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) to the line. The Manxman was far from happy though as Petacchi seemed to veer severely in front of him which made it much more difficult to come past for the win.

Cavendish gesticulated wildly as Petacchi celebrated but unsurprisngly, as he is an Italian in an Italian race, the judges decided not to penalise Ale-jet. The HTC-Columbia team are convinced that if the roles had been reversed, then Cavendish would have certainly been stripped of victory and demoted to last place on the stage for irregular sprinting.

Nevertheless Cavendish can console himself today by wearing the maglia rosa as the bonus seconds he picked up for finishing second means that he takes over the lead from his team-mate Pinotti. It is the second time in his career that he has worn the maglia rosa as he also led the race in 2009.

The only Irish rider present in this year’s Giro d’Italia is Philip Deignan of Team RadioShack. The Donegalman currently sits in 13th place on the general classification thanks to his team’s second place finish behind HTC-Columbia in the opening team time trial. Deignan is competing in the Giro for the third time having previously finished 55th in 2009 and 79th in 2008.

The GC leader of Team RadioShack for the Giro is Tiago Machado. Although the Portuguese rider is making his Grand Tour debut, he has displayed formidable consistency in stage races having placed in the top 10 in all but three of his last 22 stage races.

This year’s Giro route is murderously mountainous and Deignan will be tasked with shepherding Machado uphill as best he can throughout the next three weeks. Deignan should be coming into some good form having recently placed 55th in the hilly Volta a Catalunya and 23rd in Fléche Wallonne.

The downside to Deignan’s presence at the Giro is that it is now unlikely he will be considered for a place in the team for the Tour de France. Team manager Johan Bruyneel will shift team focus for the Tour toward the ageing GC riders Andreas Kloden, Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer.

The Giro d’Italia continues today with another relatively flat 173km from Reggio Emilia to Rapallo. The final few kilometres are reportedly very tricky with many sharp turns on narrow streets. This should lead to a tense finale where riders will be looking to avoid crashes while the sprinters duke it out once more.

One of Mark Cavendish’s season goals is to win a stage in each of the three Grand Tours – the Giro, the Tour and the Vuelta. Only three other men have ever achieved this feat. One of them is his current rival Alessandro Petacchi. One of the others is the Spaniard Miguel Poblet who did it in 1956 and as part of his Grand Tour stage winning hat-trick, he won the Giro stage into Rapallo.

About the author:

Cillian Kelly  / Twitter: @irishpeloton

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