Giro D'Italia: Mark Cavendish's painful day threatens points prize
Mark Cavendish's chances of holding on to the red jersey as points leader in the Giro d'Italia received a setback when late on the 28-year-old sprinter was dropped on a short but painfully steep climb and lost any chance of gaining points in any bunch sprint finale.
His face twisted with pain, Cavendish survived in the pack until halfway up the final six- kilometre climb of the Crosara – which itself came at the end of an interminable five-hour stage of more than 200 kilometres – before cracking.
Although Omega Pharma-Quick Step had done their utmost both to control four breakaways before the climb and then tried to chase down a group of favourites that formed on the descent, the steepness of the climb and twisting downhill course effectively prevented the Briton from contending for his fifth stage win. Instead Giovanni Visconti took his second solo victory after a gutsy late attack.
Despite the disappointment and three mountain stages now looming, Cavendish's squad say the Manx rider's priority is victory in the final stage on the flat run to Brescia on Sunday – but that they do not completely rule out the points jersey, either.
"He's staying in the race for now," the team's sports director, Brian Holm, told The Independent, "and he won't abandon unless the weather turns completely crazy."
"Cavendish loves this race, he's happy here, the team and he are doing really well [with four stages and a day in the lead already in the bag and a fifth possible victory on Sunday's flat stage] and he wants to go through all the way to Brescia if he can.
"If we don't get the points jersey, well hey, nobody can criticise us or him for not trying his absolute hardest to win it."
Cavendish has been strongly playing down his chances, saying the points classification is all but impossible to win, despite currently having a four-point lead on Australia's Cadel Evans, the 2011 Tour de France winner who is expected to pick up points on the three Dolomite stages which start today with a 20-kilometre uphill time trial.
However, the risk of bad weather, which has already seen climbs on two stages cancelled or shortened in the Alps last weekend, becomes a factor, and not just because it might cause Cavendish to abandon.
At the moment, with temperatures forecast to fall as low as -15 on Friday and Saturday in the Dolomites, four of the Giro's five major ascents – the Giau, the Gavia, the Stelvio and the Tre Cime summit finish – are under threat of being cancelled.
Holm played down their importance and said: "The stages may be shortened but we'll still be in the mountains." However, with fewer climbs, the points classification might become more unpredictable.
One thing, either way, cannot be doubted. With four stage wins already in the bag – the most Cavendish has ever taken in a single Giro and including one taken in exceptionally challenging terrain on stage 13 into Cherasco – the Briton's level of performance continues to hit new heights.
Overall standings after stage 17
1 V Nibali (It) Astana, 73:11:29
2 C Evans (Aus) BMC +1:26"
3 R Uran (Col) Sky +2:46"
Latest in Sport
West Ham vs Arsenal match report: Sam Allardyce fumes at referee as Arsenal push on towards top four
Tottenham vs Manchester United match report: Hugo Lloris blocks Manchester United from putting pressure on Premier League title rivals
Liverpool vs Swansea preview: 'Jonjo Shelvey is lazy, he needs to wise up,' says Garry Monk
Arsenal transfer news: William Carvalho to be subject of £20m bid
West Ham 1 Arsenal 2 player ratings: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain? Andy Carroll? Alexis Sanchez? Who was the star man?
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 2 Doctors remove 80 teeth from boy's jaw
- 3 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 5 Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Maintenance Assistant is requ...
£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...
£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...