The clear victory of Mark Cavendish in stage 12 of the Giro d'Italia in Ravenna owed a lot to the way his teammate Alex Rasmussen put the whole peloton in one lane in the last two kilometres. That led some riders to crash because they took too many risks trying to follow the former world champion for Madison on the track.
"It's been a hard sprint because we've had to use the whole team for winning," Mark Renshaw told Cyclingnews at the finish. "We've taken the lead a long way to go!" As it was no secret that Renshaw and Cavendish were going to leave the Giro after stage 12 and before another 200km long transfer to the next hotel, with no stage left for pure sprinters on the map of the race, the HTC-Highroad team was keen to give everything once again.
The only sprint that Cavendish lost to Alessandro Petacchi, another non-starter at Spilimbergo, in Parma at the end of stage two was partly due the lack of the second lead-out man that has been the trademark of HTC-Highroad in the past few years. But Rasmussen did it perfectly this time around.
"I took the lead from a little hill with 1.8km to go because I felt I had very good legs," the Dane told Cyclingnews before being congratulated by the stage winner. "Everyone was fighting for position behind Cavendish's wheel, so it made it easy for me to stay in the front."
Rasmussen isn't exactly the kind of sprinter like Matt Goss or Bernhard Eisel that HTC-Highroad has been used to recycle as a second lead-out man. "I can win some sprints," said the double stage winner of the 2010 Four Days of Dunkirk. "But I don't have the punch that Renshaw has. I can ride my bike at 65km/h in the last two kilometres. I'm a big guy, I can give a comfortable draft to a sprinter. What we've done today is a perfect sprint."
While Cavendish and Renshaw made their farewells to the rest of the team, Rasmussen kept his motivation high for staying at the Giro even though he expects more suffering than celebrating as in Ravenna. "It's my big dream to finish a Grand Tour and this is my first one," Rasmussen commented while Cavendish passed next to him on his way to the podium presentation and yelled: "You're incredible!"
"I'm going to fight every day for finishing the Giro, I love doing this race," Rasmussen added with a large smile.