Gert Steegmans' stressful day helping Cavendish win Giro opener
Mark Cavendish, Giro d'Italia 2013 podium after stage one
Mark Cavendish won the opening stage of the 2013 Giro d'Italia and took the pink jersey today in Naples despite a rough and tough day. A crash split the peloton and Omega Pharma-QuickStep team-mate Gert Steegmans suffered a mechanical in the lead-out.
"I didn't expect it to be 100 per cent clear, but it was a beautiful circuit," Cavendish said in a press conference. "Naples is probably the most chaotic city I've ever been to in terms of traffic, hats off to everyone who [cleared it]."
Cavendish's run to the line was nearly spoiled. Frenchman Jérôme Pineau and Belgian Gert Steegmans crashed during the 130km run in Naples.
Due to another crash, the group fractured in the final two kilometres. Cavendish and Steegmans left with about 10 rivals. It was perfect, but during Steegmans' lead-out something else went wrong.
"Maybe due to my crash before, something happened to my derailleur. I wanted to change gears and suddenly it pops on the 39. I wanted to change from 12 to 11 [in back], but instead the chain drops to the 39 on the front," Steegmans told Cycling Weekly.
"Luckily Mark already passed me and he didn't lose any space, but that was really s**t and stress."
Omega Pharma lived stressful days heading into the Giro d'Italia. Cavendish's sprint train suffered a few times in Tirreno-Adriatico and Scheldeprijs. After Scheldeprijs, the team admitted it needed to work on its train or sign riders who could do the job.
Team boss, Patrick Lefevere tried to bring in recently-retired Alessandro Petacchi, but instead had to rely on his current troops. He told Cycling Weekly today the idea was to have Iljo Keisse, Matteo Trentin and Steegmans, in that order, lead Cavendish.
In the final 10 kilometres, the race seemed to swing in favour of rival teams Orica-GreenEdge (for Matt Goss) and Cannondale (Elia Viviani). Steegmans explained that he was not worried.
"In the last week we had a s**t-load of discussions about how to do [the lead out]," said Steegmans. "We explained that when [other teams] go with three kilometres with only four guys, don't worry, they won't make it. That was what you saw with Orica and Cannondale, they couldn't make it. You need four guys with one-km out!
"The problem is that we already had to put two guys up for riding [early on]. We also have to protect two guys for the mountains - so that's already four guys away. We are not allowed to start with 15 riders so that makes it a problem! Mark's goal was to have the pink, now everything's a bonus. We were pretty stressed today."
In the next few days, starting with Wednesday in Matera, Steegmans expects the team to take greater control.
"If Matteo and Iljo had a bit more space they would've been there [today]. They were swamped on the left. I was alone with Mark and tried to be cool," added Steegmans. "We are going to keep trying what we learnt, and that is that when Matteo sets the peloton on fire we all cry."
Mark Cavendish wins Giro d'Italia opener in Naples
Giro stage one photo gallery
Giro d'Italia 2013 coverage index
Giro d'Italia 2013: British TV schedule
Giro 2013: 10 things you need to know
Giro d'Italia 2013: The Big Preview