Mark Cavendish’s long-serving leadout man, Bernie Eisel, was left ruing Team Sky’s missed opportunity on the sprint finish of stage 18.

Despite having Eisel and Geraint Thomas at his disposal, Cavendish came second best to Andrea Guardini of Farnese-Vini, much to the delight of the Italian fans crowded around the finish line in Vedelago.

“We were running a bit short of riders, I knew it already when G [Geraint] passed me with 600m to go,” Eisel explained. “The finish was a long straight line and the people behind always have a nice slipstream and that’s what happened.”

After Team Sky took charge of the peloton for the majority of the day and maintained an average speed nudging 30mph, Eisel was disappointed with Farnese-Vini’s lack of cooperation.

“If he [Guardini] was really the stronger rider on the day then his team would have been on the front riding, not attacking,” the Austrian added.

Despite missing out on maximum points in the final sprint on stage 18, Cavendish remains at the top of the points jersey classification after picking up an extra 20 points on his nearest rival Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha).

Cavendish, now on 138 points, sits 29 points clear of Rodriguez on 109 but with two mountain stages remaining it is unlikely that the world champion will add to his score. Despite that, both he and Eisel are expected to continue in the race until Milan.

“It’s been good three weeks for us; we’ve won enough,” said Eisel. “I’m pretty sure we’re going to bring the white jersey to Milan and Cav and I will make it to Milan and we will see what happens with the red jersey. Whether we get it or not, it doesn’t matter.”

As the race returns to the Dolomites today, Rodriguez himself will be targeting the final two summit finishes in order to extend his time gap over his perceived main threat, Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) who sits just 30 seconds behind him in the GC.

With a maximum of 66 points available to the Spaniard, eight each for the two remaining intermediate sprints and 25 on each finish, all Cavendish can do is ride to finish within the time limits and make it to Milan.

With that in mind, Cav will be hoping that rumours of avalanche warnings on the Passo dello Stelvio, the 2757m high grande finale of stage 20 tomorrow, turn out to be true.

Giro d’Italia 2012: Latest news



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Giro’s Stelvio stage may be shortened due to weather



Izagirre wins on Grand Tour debut



Cavendish silences Cipollini



Sky tightens grip on white jersey



Rodriguez versus Hesjedal in Giro title fight



Cavendish’s Sky lead-out still on learning curve



Orica-GreenEdge to strengthen sprint train in Tour de France



Schleck struggles on with dislocated shoulder



Rodriguez up against more experienced rivals in Giro



Bak from worker to winner at the Giro

Giro d’Italia 2012: Live coverage



Giro d’Italia 2012 live text coverage and schedule



Giro d’Italai 2012 stage 13 live text coverage



Giro d’Italia 2012 stage 12 live text coverage



Giro d’Italia 2012 stage 10 live text coverage



Giro d’Italia 2012 stage six live text coverage



Giro d’Italia 2012 stage four live text coverage

Giro d’Italia 2012: Stage reports

Stage 18: Guardini beats Cavendish in final Giro sprint

Stage 17: Rodriguez wins stage to consolidate lead

Stage 16: Izagirre claims Basque breakaway victory

Stage 15: Rabottini takes tough win in Giro

Stage 14: Amador wins Giro’s first high mountain stage as Hesjedal reclaims lead

Stage 13: Cavendish makes it three

Stage 12: Bak attacks to win

Stage 11: Ferrari wins Giro stage on ride to redemption

Stage 10: Rodriguez wins thrilling finale to take lead

Stage nine: Ventoso wins in Frosinone as Goss and Cavendish fall

Stage eight: Pozzovivo takes another Giro win

Stage seven: Hesjedal moves into Giro lead

Stage six: Rubiano solos to epic Giro stage win

Stage five: Cavendish bounces back for another stage win

Stage four: Garmin-Barracuda win TTT to take lead

Stage three: Goss wins in Horsens as Cavendish and Phinney crash

Stage two: Cavendish wins in Herning

Stage one: Phinney wins time trial

Giro d’Italia 2012: Photo galleries



Stage 18 photo gallery



Stage 17 photo gallery



Stage 16 photo gallery



Stage 15 photo gallery



Stage 14 photo gallery



Stage 13 photo gallery



Stage 12 photo gallery



Stage 11 photo gallery



Stage 10 photo gallery



Stage nine photo gallery



Stage eight photo gallery



Stage seven photo gallery



Stage six photo gallery



Stage five photo gallery



Stage four photo gallery



Stage three photo gallery



Stage two photo gallery



Stage one photo gallery

Giro d’Italia 2012: Blogs

Charly Wegelius’ Giro blog: Conserving energy for the final week

Charly Wegelius’ Giro blog: Holding on to the lead

Charly Wegelius’ Giro blog: Getting the team time trial right

Giro moto blog: Hurray for rest day

Giro moto blog: Stage 10

Giro d’Italia 2012: Teams and riders



Giro d’Italia 2012 start list

Giro d’Italia 2012: TV guide



Giro d’Italia 2012: British Eurosport TV schedule

Related links



Giro d’Italia 2012: The Big Preview



Cycling Weekly’s Giro d’Italia section