Stage Twelve of this year's Giro d'Italia was one of the last chances for the sprinters to shine. The short 134km (83mi) jaunt from Longarone to Treviso was going to be flat and fast and favor a bunch sprint. Mother Nature wanted to give them a little extra work. The day dawned wet and cold, 43 degrees Fahrenheit (6 Celsius) at the start.
Cannondale Pro Cycling had only two objectives today. Protect Damiano Caruso's twentieth place on general classification and do everything they could to bring the race to a sprint finish so sprinter Elia Viviani could turn on the afterburners and score his first win of the Giro.
The weather dampened the spirits in the peloton and a break of four got away fairly easily after only nine kilometers (5.5mi). Katusha's Maxim Belkov, Argos-Shimano's Bert De Backer, Androni Giocattoli's Fabio Felline, and Vaconsoleil's Maurits Lammertink rolled off without much of a fight. Lammertink's teammate, Marco Marcato waited several kilometers to strike out and chase them down.
In the cold rain, the peloton rode on, suffering under intermittent heavy rain. On one slippery turn, four of the five riders in the break slid out and hit the ground, with the fifth riding off the road.
The five pretended the intermediate sprints and KoM climbs didn't exist because cooperation would be the only way to ride into Treviso without being caught. The field, with Omega Pharma-Quickstep, Orica-Greenedge, and Cannondale taking turns to make sure the break never got more than a three-and-a-half minute gap.
The gap was never big, but the field had a hard time closing it down. As the kilometers ticked off, the lead gradually shrunk, with neither the field zooming in for the kill nor the breakaway throwing in the towel or attacking each other.
On the descent of the Montello-S.M.d.Vittoria, Sky's Brad Wiggins, the man seen as the biggest favorite for the overall, continued his demonstration of how not to race the Giro. He lost time going down, and gathered most of his team to chase back the field, which contained race leader Vincenzo Nibali of Astana.
As the Wiggins group was losing ground to the Pink Jersey group, the latter was inching their way back to the breakaway. Thirty seconds at eight kilometers (5mi). Fifteen seconds at four kilometers (2.5mi). Nine seconds at two kilometers (1.2mi). Two seconds at one kilometer (.62mi). And finally the break started attacking each other.
But it was no use. Omega Pharma lead the chase, initiated the catch at 500 meters and a few seconds later, their man Mark Cavendish launched his sprint and won easily. Viviani, who had fought to be in that group and fought to be with Cav' for the final burst, was boxed out and finished ???.
Losing position in the finale had a second consequence. Viviani was unable to overtake Cadel Evans on points, and Cav' leapfrogged over both to take the lead in the points competition, with Evans remaining in second. The Cannondale rider drops to third.
This was a frustrating turn of events for the young Italian. "It's a big pity because I've lost a chance. I wasn't able to sprint as I expected, due to chaos in the finale. I didn't find the space to pass and follow the right wheels. Steegmans maintained high speed for Cavendish and it was impossible to recover once I lost position. I'm disappointed in my result but I don't want to give up my goal of a stage win."
The sprinters who missed out today will have another chance tomorrow, when Stage Thirteen rides 254km (158mi) though Piedmont from Busseto to Cheracso. The first 175km (108mi) is completely flat, with the next 79km (49mi) rolling. The two intermediate sprints and the only categorized climb come in the rolling section. Depending how they climb, the sprinters are either licking their lips or dreading the finale, as this is probably their last chance at a stage win until the final stage. Cannondale Pro Cycling's Viviani has been stalking the best sprinters. This could be his stage.
Giro d'Italia 2013
Longarone to Treviso 134km
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step in 3:01:47
2. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ at same time
3. Luka Mezgec (Slo) Team Argos-Shimano same time
4. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) RadioShack Leopard same time
5. Brett Lancaster (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge same time
Stage Results Cannondale Pro Cycling
16. Elia Viviani (Ita) same time
47. Damiano Caruso (Ita) same time
67. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) same time
75. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) same time
92. Alan Marangoni (Ita) 0:00::55
101. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) 0:01:07
108. Cameron Wurf (Aus) same time
141. Fabio Sabatini (Ita) 0:03:17
159. Cristiano Salerno (Ita) same time
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 46:28:14
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:41
3. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:02:04
4. Robert Gesink (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling Team 0:02:12
5. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:02:13
General Classification Cannondale Pro Cycling
20. Damiano Caruso (Ita) 0:08:43
62. Cristiano Salerno (Ita) 0:57:41
64. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) 0:58:10
66. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) 0:58:51
113. Elia Viviani (Ita) 1:32:27
114. Fabio Sabatini (Ita) 1:34:14
122. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) 1:39:03
130. Cameron Wurf (Aus) 1:41:16
142. Alan Marangoni (Ita) 1:46:05