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After an excellent lead-out from Renshaw, Cavendish held Nizzolo off in the bunch sprint on stage 2 of the Tour of Croatia; Renshaw completed the podium and Cavendish took the overall lead

Photo: QCF/Paumer/Kåre Dehlie Thorstad

GIACOMO NIZZOLO

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MARK CAVENDISH

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MARK RENSHAW

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NTT PRO CYCLING TEAM

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TOUR OF CROATIA

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20.04.2016 @ 18:11 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

One day after his frustrating defeat, Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) finally returned to his winning ways when he finished off an excellent Dimension Data performance on stage 2 of the Tour of Croatia. After a great lead-out from Mark Renshaw, he easily held off Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) and Renshaw even made it two riders from the team on the podium. Cavendish also took the overall lead.

 

By winning a stage and the overall at the Tour of Qatar, Mark Cavendish got his Dimension Data career of the best possible start but since then the Brit has had a bit of a drought. With a big focus on the track in February and early March, he was not at his usual level in Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-Sanremo and he admitted that he felt a bit under pressure to deliver some results soon.

 

He came up short in a very close battle with Marcel Kittel at Scheldeprijs and proved that his form is great when he rode to 30th in Paris-Roubaix. Hence, he was expected to rule the bunch sprints in this week’s Tour of Croatia.

 

However, Cavendish got the race off to a frustrating start as he was beaten into second by Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) in the opening stage. The technical finale made it impossible for him to ever do the sprint and that left him with just two more chances in the Croatian race.

 

Today he finally took his third win for his team when he got his revenge in the mammoth 240km second stage. Unlike yesterday, he did nothing wrong in the finale, staying on Mark Renshaw’s wheel when the Australian finished off an excellent Dimension Data showing by delivering his British teammate to victory.

 

After yesterday’s 230km stage, the riders faced another brutally long day in the saddle as they covered 240km from NP Plitvice to Split. The lumpy first half included two categorized climbs but as the second half was descending and flat, a bunch sprint was expected.

 

The riders had great sunshine when they gathered for the start. Only Davide Vigano (Androni) was absent as they headed out for the neutral ride.

 

Like yesterday, it was a very fast start to the stage and it took a long time for the break to be formed. An 8-rider group with Adam Stachowiak (Verva) looked promising at the 25km mark but they were brought back. Things were still together in the first intermediate sprint which was won by Nicola Ruffoni (Bardiani) who beat Mark Renshaw and Niolay Trusov (Tinkoff) into the minor positions

 

Instead, Lukasz Bodnar (Verva), Nicola Boem (Bardiani), Kevin De Mesmaeker (Novo Nordisk), Joshua Hunt (ONE), Aviv Yechzkel (Cycling Academy) and Johannes Schinnagel (Felbermayr) escaped and they quickly got an advantage of 3 minutes. After 70km, they had pushed it out to 4.30 and it was even five minutes at the 110km mark. Meanwhile, De Mesmaeker beat Boem and Hunt in the first KOM sprint.

 

The peloton started to chase when Jay Thomson (Dimension Data) and Gregory Rast (Trek) hit the front and they had reduced the gap to 3 minutes. At this point, Boem beat De Mesmaeker and Hunt in the second KOM sprint.

 

With 65km to go, the gap was still 2 minutes but it was coming down steadily until the break hit the gas inside the final 50km. With 45km to go, they had pushed it out to 2.36.

 

This forced Trek to add more forepower to the chase and it was Julien Bernard who joined forces with Thomson and Rast. They didn’t slow down when a crash briefly split the field and as they approached the final 30km, the gap was again less than 2 minutes.

 

Boem realized that he was the strongest rider and he surged clear with a strong solo move. He won the final intermediate sprint ahead of De Mesmaeker and Bodnar. In the peloton, IAM took complete control with Simon Pellaud and Sondre Holst Enger before Pirmin Lang took over. The fast pace from the Swiss team meant that the gap was only 1.30 with 28km to go.

 

IAM started on the front until they brought the chasers back with 12km to go. Here Thomson came back to the fore, trading pulls with Trek climber Julian Arredondo.

 

With 10km to go, a big crash with ONE sprinter Chris Opie split the field, leaving just 60 riders to press on. They didn’t slow down at all and it was Thomson who brought Boem back with 8km to go.

 

Dimension Data took full control until they allowed Verandas Willems and Trek to briefly take over with 6km to go. Entering the final 5km, they were back on the front with Bernhard Eisel and they didn’t panic when a Synergy Baku rider made a move with 3km to go.

 

Dimension Data lost their positions when Trek hit the front but it was way too early for Boy van Poppel who was already on the front with more than 2km to go, with Nizzolo sitting in second. The Italian was quick to slot into fourth when Tinkoff took over with Jay McCarthy, Trusov and Michal Kolar. Verva and Dimension Data tried to pass and it was the latter team that won the battle.

 

Jonas Koch (Verva) hit the deck in a roundabout before Dimension Data launched their lead-out. Reinardt van Rensburg hit the front with Renshaw and Cavendish on his wheel. Nizzlo showed great technical skills to use the many late turns to pass Kolar and move into fourth behind the South African team.

 

Renshaw finally launched the lead-out and did so well that Cavendish barely had to sprint. Nizzolo had no chance to come around and had to settle for second while Renshaw even held on to third, holding off Kolar and Andrea Guardini (Astana).

 

Cavendish and Nizzolo are now tied on time and stage placings and so it is the result of today’s stage that decides the overall classification. Hence, Cavendish will wear the leader’s jersey in tomorrow’s third stage. It’s a hilly affair with a tough first half and a few small climbs in the mostly descending second half, with a categorized climb coming around 45km from the finish where a reduced bunch sprint is expected.

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