Although his second place finish was enough to assume the overall lead, Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) could scarcely hide his frustration in the moments directly after crossing the finish line on stage 2 of the Giro d’Italia.
A remonstrative Cavendish was visibly enraged by what he felt was stage winner Alessandro Petacchi’s (Lampre-ISD) deviation from his line in the sprint, and race organiser Angelo Zomegnan made sure that he was on hand to commiserate with the Manxman on Parma’s Stradone Martiri della Libertà.
By the time Cavendish descended from the podium in the maglia rosa, however, he was an oasis of calm. Before answering any questions at his post-stage press, he delivered a soliloquy explaining his emotions in the immediate aftermath of the finish.
“I think everybody knows the mentality of a sprinter, it’s win or nothing,” Cavendish said. “And even a rider who isn’t a sprinter, let alone normal people, can’t imagine the adrenaline that goes through being in a bunch sprint.”
Cavendish patiently paused between sentences as he waited for his words to be translated into Italian, and he detailed why he was so aggravated by the events in the finishing straight.
“Today in the sprint I felt that Alessandro moved from his line,” he said. “This was because with the experience he has, he’s a great rider and a great champion, and he jumped before me.
“In my eyes, he turned left and he used tactics to block me, but in my life this has been sprinting. The tactics used in sprinting as well as the power used in sprinting is what sprinting is about.”
Cavendish went on to explain that his anger at the finish was directed not at Petacchi but at the race commissaires, claiming that if he sprinted in the same manner as the Italian, he would have been disqualified.
“In the past every time I moved one centimetre from my line I was disqualified but this isn’t Alessandro’s fault,” Cavendish maintained. “This is the fault of the organisers or the commissaires or whoever is in charge at the time. For me I felt hard done by because for the same movement I would be disqualified.”
In spite of his disappointment at missing out on the stage win, however, Cavendish said that appealing the race result never entered into his thinking.
“When I had time to calm down and think logically about the situation, when the adrenaline has stopped flowing, I learned that it’s not fair for me to make a complaint about Alessandro because of my frustration with other people,” he said, before apologising for his remonstrations after the finish. “I want to say sorry if I caused some problems with the jury and Alessandro. In the heat of the moment it’s not fair to take my frustration with the prejudice against me out on Alessandro.”
Defending the jersey
Although Cavendish failed to take the stage win in Parma, he was able to console himself with the overall lead after grabbing the necessary time bonus to move clear of teammate Marco Pinotti. In spite of the furore in the finishing straight, Cavendish expressed his happiness at wearing the maglia rosa once again.
“It hasn’t been overshadowed because to wear the pink jersey in any year is a incredible emotion, but to wear it in a special year for Italy is even more beautiful, especially after the hard work the guys did all day,” he said.
Cavendish paid tribute to his HTC-Highroad squad, who took responsibility for controlling affairs at the head of the peloton for the bulk of the Giro’s longest stage.
“They rode like motorbikes yesterday and they rode like even bigger motorbikes today,” he smiled. “For most of the stage we were controlling solo. We had help from Garmin at the end, and to be able to keep the maglia rosa in the team is absolutely beautiful.”
Given the torturous nature of this year’s Giro route, Cavendish is well aware that he faces a stiff challenge to hold on to his overall lead for long, but he was cautiously optimistic that the next two stages might also prove to his liking.
“Tomorrow is a possible bunch sprint, and even the next day is a possible bunch sprint,” he said, glancing at a map of the route over his shoulder in the press centre.
“I hope to keep it another couple of days but if I don’t, I don’t. They’re not very easy finishes.”
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.