Britain’s Mark Cavendish has won his first grand tour stage.

The sprinter from the Isle of Man got the better of yesterday’s winner Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) at the finish of the 187-kilometre stage to Catanzaro-Lungomare in the Giro d’Italia.

A crash 800 metres from the finish meant the sprint was contested by just a dozen riders.

Cofidis rider Nick Nuyens went down first and ruined the chances of everyone behind him.

Three Milram riders including Zabel, Bennati – wearing the purple sprint leader’s jersey – Robbie McEwen, Cavendish and a couple of his High Road team-mates were among the few to make the split caused by the crash.

Cavendish demonstrated a cool head and a tactical superiority beyond his years when the door appeared to close on him, forcing him to slow and settle on Bennati’s wheel.

It was the perfect place to be and from 300 metres out there was only going to be one winner.

The 22-year-old world Madison champion cruised past Bennati to take his first grand tour stage win. Gerolsteiner’s Robert Forster, who was on Cavendish’s wheel, also got past Bennati to clinch second.

Liquigas rider Franco Pellizotti retained the leader’s pink jersey.

Cavendish becomes only the third British rider to win a stage of the Giro d’Italia after Robert Millar in 1987 and Vin Denson in 1966.

It was Cavendish’s 16th win as a professional, lifting him level with Robert Millar in Cycling Weekly‘s all-time table of most prolific British pros.

More to come.

Mark Cavendish Giro d'Italia 2008Mark Cavendish showed the world today that he can beat the best at the biggest races

Mark Cavendish Bradley Wiggins Giro d'Italia 2008Bradley Wiggins congratulates team-mate and compatriot Cavendish

Photos by Graham Watson

Stage four results
1. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) High Road 187km in 4-49-09

2. Robert Forster (Germany) Gerolsteiner
3. Daniele Bennati (Italy) Liquigas
4. Assan Bazayev (Kazakhstan) Astana
5. Mirco Lorenzetto (Italy) Lampre
6. Erik Zabel (Germany) Milram
7. Robbie McEwen (Australia) Silence-Lotto
8. Tony Martin (Germany) High Road
9. Paolo Bettini (Italy) Quick Step
10. Koldo Fernandez (Spain) Euskaltel
British
51. David Millar (Slipstream) all same time
138. Bradley Wiggins (High Road) at 2-06
171. Steve Cummings (Barloworld) at 10-18
180. Geraint Thomas (Barloworld) at 10-52
190. Charly Wegelius (Liquigas) same time.

OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER STAGE FOUR
1. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas in 16hours 41min 26secs
2. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Slipstream at 1sec
3. Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR at 7secs
4. Morris Possoni (Ita) High Road at 8secs
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 8secs
6. Nicki Sorensen (Den) CSC at 17secs
7. Kanstantin Siutsou (Blr) High Road at 18secs
8. Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) LPR at 19secs
9. Andrea Noe (Ita) Liquigas at 22secs
10. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas at 24secs
British
76. David Millar (GB) Slipstream at 2min 14secs
117. Mark Cavendish (GB) High Road at 11min 18secs
137. Bradley Wiggins (GB) High Road at 13min 44secs
158. Steven Cummings (GB) Barloworld at 18min 18secs
160. Geraint Thomas (GB) Barloworld at 18min 47secs
164. Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas at 19min 43secs


GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: STAGE REPORTS
Stage five: Millar denied by snapped chain at the last
Stage three: Bennati romps home
Stage two: Ricco wins Giro d’Italia second stage
Stage one TTT: Slipstream wins Giro team time trial

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: NEWS
Cavendish: This is my biggest win [stage four]
Millar celebrates Slipstream Giro d’Italia success
Bettini looking for final Giro glory
Astana’s troubled build-up to the Giro
Petacchi banned for Salbutamol positive
Yates and Astana make last minute rush to Giro

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: PHOTOS
Giro d’Italia 2008: Photo gallery. New photos added daily

GIRO D’ITALIA 2008: FEATURES
Giro Britannia: how the Brits are doing in Italy
Giro d’Italia 2008 preview
Giro d’Italia 2008: who will win?
Giro d’Italia 2008: The British are coming
Giro d’Italia on Eurosport: TV schedule