By Gregor Brown in Cittadella
Two days after his 23rd birthday, Team High Road's 'Manx Express' Mark Cavendish has taken a second Giro d'Italia stage victory, once again fending off points leader Daniele Bennati on the finish to Cittadella. Unlike some of the peloton's older sprinters such as Australian Robbie McEwen, Cavendish plans to fight his way through the tough mountain stages that follow, but might just crack open the bubbly with his team this evening.
"I think that we can celebrate a little bit now," he said with a smile at the post-stage press conference. "We were going to get a bottle of champagne the other day but I said we would have to leave it until we win. I thought yesterday, but it did not work. I wanted it for my team, they worked so hard."
Team High Road delivered the youngster to his first Giro d'Italia win in Pizza Calibre, 10 days ago, and tried its damndest to do so yesterday, but the last curve put paid to Cavendish's celebrations. However, with the help of riders such as Marco Pinotti, Adam Hanson, Bradley Wiggins, Tony Martin and André Greipel he took revenge on Italy's best today.
"I was really disappointed yesterday, I showed I was the fastest, but messed up the last corner," he said of the stage in Carpi that went the way of Bennati. "Today, I woke up and I promised my team, my directors, and I did it."
Bennati, to his credit, did not fade to the right to impede his rival today, as sprinters often do. "If you look you can see I said thanks as I went past with 100 metres to go. I have to say again, 'thanks'. It is great sportsmanship and we are able to see who is the fastest. It is a great thing for him to do and I am sure in my career I will be able to pay him back."
Bennati tipped his hat to Cavendish yesterday, saying: "According to me, he is very young and demonstrating to be the strongest sprinter in the world."
The rider from Laxey on the Isle of Man, who resides in Quarrata in the Italian region of Tuscany during the season, attributes his speed more to time spent in the velodrome, rather than the terrain in which he grew up. "The terrain and weather makes for a good Classics rider - one for Belgium," he said. "I don't know for me, if it comes from the track background, with fixed gears on the track, where you have to use the cranks to get the maximum speed.
"It is my speed and acceleration from 50 to 70 metres," he added. "I am able to do it with my age. I think I am the fastest as far as acceleration, but with strength... you can see how well Zabel and McEwen get over the hills. I need my team there. I am lucky with my acceleration."
To read the complete winner's feature, click here.