Mark Cavendish wins Giro opener

British sprinter Mark Cavendish wins his 37th stage of cycling's Grand Tours after a crash splits the pack in two.

    Mark Cavendish wins Giro opener
    British cyclist Mark Cavendish (C) survived crash to win a dramatic sprint finish in Naples [EPA]

    British standout Mark Cavendish won the opening stage of the Giro d'Italia in a sprint on Saturday that was marred by a crash shortly before the finish.

    The main pack was split into two groups when riders went down with less than 2 kilometers to go in the 130-kilometer (81-mile) leg and only about 10-15 riders were left in front to contest the sprint.

    Cavendish, who rides for the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team, finished in 2 hours, 58 minutes, 38 seconds on the circuit in downtown Naples, which featured a long, flat finishing straight.

    Cavendish has now won a combined 37 stages at the Giro, Tour and Vuelta - cycling's three Grand Tours.

    Elia Viviani, an Italian with Cannondale, crossed second, and Nacer Bouhanni, a Frenchman with FDJ, was third.

    "I really wanted to win this here in Napoli... Now I want to go for a pizza"

    Mark Cavendish

    Overall favourites Bradley Wiggins and Vincenzo Nibali, along with defending champion Ryder Hesjedal, finished safely in the main pack.

    It was the 11th Giro stage win of Cavendish's career and his 98th victory overall. He'll wear the overall leader's pink jersey in Sunday's second stage, a team time trial on the nearby island of Ischia.

    It will mark the fourth time Cavendish wears the pink jersey. He wore it for two days in 2009 when his former team  Columbia won the opening team time trial and for one day in 2011 after a stage win.

    "I've worn it before at the start but that was thanks to my team," Cavendish said.

    "I really wanted to win this here in Napoli... Now I want to go for a pizza."

    The course featured two mild climbs in the Posillipo neighborhood and several loops down the finishing straight alongside the bay.

    On a warm spring day, fans came out en masse to watch the race. Some even brought their dogs, one of which nearly tripped up some riders on a sharp corner after slipping under a barrier lining the road.

    With the roads narrow in areas and stretches of cobblestones, there were several crashes. Among those who hit the asphalt were Laurent Pichon of France, Matteo Rabottini of Italy and Miguel Minguez Ayala of Spain.

    There were a couple of groups of early breakaway riders and the last man caught by the main pack was Cameron Wurf, an Australian with Cannondale, with about 20 kilometers (12 miles) to go.

    Cavendish's Omega team led the chase.

    Sunday's team time trial from Ischia to Forio lasts 17.4 kilometers (10.8 miles).

    The race ends May 26 in Brescia.

    SOURCE: AP


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Meet the deported nurse aiding asylum seekers at US-Mexico border

    Meet the deported nurse helping refugees at the border

    Francisco 'Panchito' Olachea drives a beat-up ambulance around Nogales, taking care of those trying to get to the US.

    The rise of Pakistan's 'burger' generation

    The rise of Pakistan's 'burger' generation

    How a homegrown burger joint pioneered a food revolution and decades later gave a young, politicised class its identity.

    'We will cut your throats': The anatomy of Greece's lynch mobs

    The brutality of Greece's racist lynch mobs

    With anti-migrant violence hitting a fever pitch, victims ask why Greek authorities have carried out so few arrests.