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Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma Quick Step) triumphs at the end of stage 2.
Belgian squad in search of sprint stage victories
Belgium's Omega Pharma-QuickStep team heads to this year's Giro d'Italia with a roster built around sprinter Mark Cavendish. The 27-year-old Manxman will start the fifth Giro of his career on Saturday, May 4, and his first for Omega Pharma, focused on adding to the 10 stage wins already in his palmares for the Italian Grand Tour.
"We start with a very good team built around Mark Cavendish," said Sport Director Davide Bramati. "The presence of a pure sprinter such as Mark will change our approach to the race if we compare it with our last participations. In any stage where we have a possibility, we have to try to do our best to go for the win.
"I think an immediate important moment will be the first stage in Napoli. Everyone wants to fight for the first Pink Jersey. The competition is fierce, but we can count on a good group. We believe in our team and we will be there to try to fight and win."
The 2012 Giro d'Italia was bittersweet for Cavendish. After winning the second stage, Cavendish crashed heavily in the field sprint finale to stage three, along with many others including the then maglia rosa holder Taylor Phinney. He criticized Roberto Ferrari, who clipped Cavendish's front wheel, for causing the incident. Ferrari was relegated for his actions, and Cavendish bounced back to win two more stages, but would lose the points classification to overall runner-up Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) by the slimmest of margins - one point.
Cavendish has notched six sprint victories thus far this season, plus the overall GC at the Tour of Qatar, and will count on the lead-out team of Gert Steegmans, Iljo Keisse and Matteo Trentin at the Giro.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep has other cards to play in stages not suited to Cavendish. "Beside Mark, we go into the race with experienced guys such as [Michal] Golas and [Jerome] Pineau who have experience going for the stage victories at the Giro," Bramati said. Golas, the reigning Polish road champion, will start the second Giro of his career while Pineau has one Giro stage victory in his palmares - stage 5 of the 2010 edition. "We also count on young Julien Vermote in his second participation in the Giro.
"For the mountains we can count on Serge Pauwels and Gianluca Brambilla," Bramati continued. Brambilla finished 13th overall in the 2012 Giro while riding for Italian Pro Continental team Colnago-CSF Inox. "Brambilla is a young guy in his first year with us. He passed through the Tour de Romandie in preparation for this race. Trentin is also Italian and wants to show his skills after an injury to his scaphoid due to bad luck earlier this year. We go into this race with a good group that will do their best for all possibilities in all stages."
Omega Pharma-QuickStep Giro d'Italia roster:
Gianluca Brambilla (Ita), Mark Cavendish (GBr), Michal Golas (Pol), Iljo Keisse (Bel), Serge Pauwels (Bel), Jerome Pineau (Fra), Gert Steegmans (Bel), Matteo Trentin (Ita), Julien Vermote (Bel)