No sprinter is in the business of celebrating second place finishes, but Elia Viviani (Cannondale) had to accept his fate with grace when he was beaten by Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) the end of stage 6 of the Giro d’Italia in Margherita di Savoia.
Like on the opening stage in Naples, Viviani used his track racer’s acumen to good effect and positioned himself well in the finishing straight by nipping onto Murilo Fischer’s (FDJ) wheel. But just like last weekend, there was little Viviani could do against Cavendish and he had to settle for another second place finish at this Giro.
After crossing the line, Viviani was whisked off – along with Cavendish – to the makeshift television studio by the finish that is the site of the daily “Processo alla tappa” programme, which analyses the day’s action and – on occasion – stokes up polemica.
There was little argument about the final reckoning of stage 6, however, and by the time Cyclingnews managed to catch up with Viviani by telephone, the sprinter was already in a team car headed north towards Cannondale’s hotel further up the Adriatic coast at Vasto and viewing his afternoon in a positive light.
“We were hoping to be able to anticipate him in the sprint but Omega Pharma did a great lead-out for Cavendish,” Viviani said. “[Gert] Steegmans was perfect today and then in the end, it was a great sprint from the best sprinter in the world. There really was very little to be done against Cavendish, so I’ll take this second place against him in a positive way. It’s always annoying to lose out, and like the first stage, I didn’t do much wrong but he just did a great sprint.”
If Viviani had the consolation of being beaten by the quicker man on Thursday, his frustration at the turn of events in Matera the previous afternoon was still palpable. With Cavendish dropped on the final approach to the hilltop town, Viviani was looking forward to renewing acquaintances with fellow young fastman John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) when a crash disrupted the rhythm of the sprint and the Italian was caught behind.
“Cavendish is a great champion and in sprints like today he’s very hard to beat, so maybe I really missed a chance in Matera the other day when there was an uphill finish and he wasn’t in the front group,” Viviani said. “If there hadn’t been the big crash, then I think I could have been in a position to have a go for the win with my sprint, even if Degenkolb produced a great sparata in the end.”
The Giro is still long, however, and while opportunities for the pure sprinters are at a premium, there may yet be rewards for those who can hang tough on rugged finales and win from reduced pelotons. “In yesterday’s sprint, Goss would have been the real danger man but I think I was struggling less than he was on the final climb, so that gives me a bit of confidence for the stages to come,” Viviani admitted. “It’s just a shame that the crash yesterday ruined everything.”