Lucky Stage 13, the longest race in the Giro, offered the sprinters their last chance at a victory until the Alps have been crossed. The road, from Busseto to Cherasco, at 254km (158mi) is also the longest stage in the race; it's no gift from the promoters. But when you're a sprinter in a stage race, you have to take what you can, and Cannondale Pro Cycling's Elia Viviani was running out of opportunities for a sprint victory.
The stage started as yesterday ended. In the rain. And with predictions of rain all day, the riders weren't in the mood to race from the first flag. It took almost 30km (19mi) for the day's break to make a hasty exit from the pack. And when they did, the seven escapees were given their freedom, and plenty of it. Almost fourteen minutes in 57km (35.5mi), a huge advantage. But it came with strings attached. Omega Pharma-Quickstep was bound to chase them down. The team of Mark Cavendish was keen on setting their man up for his 101st victory as a pro. Since everyone knew this was the goal, all other teams sat back and let the Omegas chase. And chase and chase and chase.
With 40km (26mi) remaining, the catch seemed imminent, then three of the seven, Lars Bak of Lotto, Nicola Boem of Bardiani, and Pablo Lastras of Movistar, attacked their group and went out for more. They went out and extended their lead. With 15km (9mi) remaining, Lastras attacked to go solo. After a few kilometers, he was joined by a chase group of seven. And as the field closed in on them, with six kilometers (4mi) remaining, Katusha's Giancarlo Caruso went out on his own.
Caruso was brought back with a little over a kilometer remaining. Omega Pharma was spent from chasing, so Orica-Greenedge went to the front for Brett Lancaster. Under the red flag for the final kilometer and Cannondale took over to shepherd Viviani towards his first win. Cavendish, without any help, was seven riders back. As Cannondale lead down the left side of the road into the final 250 meters for Viviani, Cavendish moved up on the right and launched a second before Viviani started. That moment was all Cavendish needed. Viviani couldn't get on the Manxman's wheel. Nor could anybody else. Cavendish got his 101st victory as a pro. Viviani had to accept fifth place.
Fifth isn't first, but when it's all you have, it's hard to be disappointed. Viviani said, "The team did really a great job and I can't ask more than what they did. It was a long and intense stage. Added the efforts of past days, I was not as competitive as I wanted. I would like to thank the team for their confidence in me and I really hope to be able to pay back their efforts with a win before this Giro is over."
Tomorrow, Stage Fourteen goes from Cervere to the Jafferau outside of Bardonecchia. 168km in total, the first 70km basically flat, leading to an intermediate sprint in Pinerolo. From there, the racers climb the second-category Sestriere, descend, take in a second intermediate sprint in Bardonecchia and climb 7.2km up a 9% grade up the Jafferau with a mountaintop finish. There's no doubt that the men fighting for the overall victory will come out to race this day. Cannondale Pro Cycling can play the outsider role, with Damiano Caruso looking to move up from nineteeth, and Cristiano Salerno and Cayetano Sarmiento ready to act as spoilers for the favorites.
Giro d'Italia 2013
Busseto to Cheracso 254km
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step in 6:09:55
2. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) RadioShack Leopard at same time
3. Luka Mezgec (Slo) Team Argos-Shimano same time
4. Brett Lancaster (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge same time
5. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling same time
Stage Results Cannondale Pro Cycling
25. Fabio Sabatini (Ita) same time
53. Damiano Caruso (Ita) same time
76. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) same time
99. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) 0:00:27
105. Alan Marangoni (Ita) 0:00:53
135. Cameron Wurf (Aus) 0:16:32
145. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) same time
148. Cristiano Salerno (Ita) same time
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 52:38:09
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
19. Damiano Caruso (Ita) 0:08:43
60. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) 0:59:18
75. Cristiano Salerno (Ita) 1:14:03
76. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) 1:14:32
106. Elia Viviani (Ita) 1:32:27
108. Fabio Sabatini (Ita) 1:34:04
114. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) 1:39:03
128. Alan Marangoni (Ita) 1:46:48
145. Cameron Wurf (Aus) 1:57:38