QuickStep-AlphaVinyl did everything they could to close down the breakaway during stage 13 from Sanremo to Cuneo leaving them unable to provide Mark Cavendish with a full lead-out train in the sprint. But post-stage, as the team recovered from their huge effort and debriefed, there were no regrets.
Cavendish made two sprints in the final 500 metres, first to jump around riders and find eventual winner Arnaud Démare's wheel and then a second surge to try to anticipate the Frenchman. He tied up in sight of the line but could have done little more. Only the final victory eluded him.
Cavendish was naturally disappointed not to win in what is likely the final sprint opportunity of the 2022 Giro d'Italia. Stage 18 is flat and finishes in Treviso but the breakaway may have the upper hand that day. All the sprinters who decide to stay in the Giro will have to survive the two terrible mountain stages this weekend and then climb high into the Alps for finishes in Aprica and Lavarone.
Cavendish and Quickstep-AlphaVinyl directeur sportif Davide Bramati were disappointed in defeat but were complimentary of Démare and his Groupama-FDJ team. Other teams opted not to commit to the chase for their own tactical reasons but Groupama-FDJ and Israel-Premier Tech played fair.
"We didn't win but we can accept defeat this time," Bramati told Cyclingnews and RAI television post-stage.
"We didn't win but Mark went close and he can be proud of his performance. I'm actually happy that Demare and Groupama-FDJ won the sprint rather than another rival team because they worked with us 100% and so deserved it."
Bramati had no regrets about committing to the chase once the race made it over the Colle di Nava climb from the coast into the Piemonte region.
Filippo Tagliani (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli), Julius van den Berg (EF Education-EasyPost), Nicolas Prodhomme (AG2R Citroën) and Pascal Eenkhoorn (Jumbo-Visma) held a 4:35 gap with 50km to race and it was 1:05 with 10km to go.
Thanks to the efforts of QuickStep-AlphaVinyl, Groupama-FDJ and Israel-Premier Tech, the breakaway was caught just 500 metres from the finish line.
"The break worked hard together and got a big gap, then there was more wind in the valley than expected and so we had to sacrifice all the team to close the gap and pull them back. But I think it was the right decision because we caught them just before the finish," Bramati explained.
Bramati accepted that the sprint in Cuneo was likely the last chance for Cavendish to win a second stage after his win in Balatonfüred on stage 3.
"We've got stage 18 but the Giro is going to get a lot harder starting from Saturday," he warned.
"We hope to get through the mountain stages at the weekend. It won't be easy because we went deep to try and win today. But we'll give our all as we always do."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.