At the end of a stage that even Sean Kelly described as “a real boring day,” Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) banished all thoughts of boredom with what was - arguably - the greatest victory from the most impressive sprint of his recent comeback.
On the slight downhill to the line in Balatonfüred, after an immaculate piloting to the final straight, Cavendish opted to start his sprint early, from the centre of the road. Despite the danger of being overwhelmed, his positioning was perfect and the speed was too high for anyone to surpass. Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirate) crept up on Cavendish’s left shoulder but the window was not ajar enough for him to force his way through; in the final metres Arnaud Demare (Groupama FDJ) had the speed to ease his way up on the right but there was not enough road for him to pass Cavendish by the line.
“I had to go long, with 300 [metres] to go,” the winner said afterwards. “I’m happy I could hang on for that long.”
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The furious finish came at the end of what was undeniably an easy day at the office for all 175 riders who started. The race concluded fifteen minutes behind and 1.5kph slower than the slowest expected schedule.

For most of its 201km, the stage unfolded in predictably pedestrian fashion across its practically pan-flat profile.
A three-man break consisting of Filippo Tagliani, Mattia Bais (both Drone Hopper - Androni Giocattoli) and Samuele Rivi (Eolo - Kometa) slipped away at kilometre zero and the three ProContinental riders were allowed to establish a lead limited to three minutes. Tagliani was favoured for the sprint competition, and he claimed the maximum points at both intermediates, before falling back to the bunch and allowing his colleagues to fight it out for the red number awarded to most combative rider of the day. With 27.5km remaining of the stage, both were caught, the sprint teams took over, and the stage was set for the expected finale.
A small sub-plot was allowed to distract as Rik Zabel (Israel PremierTech) and Pascal Enkhoorn (Jumbo Visma) saw fit to fight it out for the sole King of the Mountains point on offer. Despite coming off second best Rik Zabel (Israel PremierTech) held on to the lead in that classification by virtue of higher overall placement.

In the final kilometres of the grande partenza it was the Belgian team of Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl who did what they do best, delivering Mark Cavendish to a victory that will surely put him back in contention for a place at the Tour de France.

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Cavendish paid tribute to his team-mates who, after taking over at the front as the peloton passed under the flamme rouge, guided him to the finish and dropped him off in the perfect position at precisely the right time. Their final four negotiated the technically tricky roundabout that came with 1km remaining and meant Cavendish had no need to ease off.
“I’ve got an incredible final group here and they delivered,” Cavendish said moments after taking the victory.
Michael Morkov, the last rider in that line, was equally proud of the team’s success:
“We pretty much nailed what we planned…” the Dane said. “We wanted to be first into the last roundabout, and Cavendish did a very impressive sprint in the end.”
Caleb Ewan, the other big favourite for the stage, was boxed in and could manage no better than 8th place.
Mathieu van der Poel, serving as lead-out man for Alpecin-Fenix team-mate, Jakub Mareczko, retained the race lead and will wear the maglia rosa when the Giro d’Italia resumes in Sicily on Tuesday.

Stage Top Ten

1 Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team) 4:56:39
2 Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) ,,
3 Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) ,,
4 Biniam Girmay (Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux ,,
5 Jakub Mareczko (Alpecin-Fenix) ,,
6 Edward Teuns (Trek-Segafredo) ,,
7 Simone Consonni (Cofidis) ,,
8 Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) ,,
9 Alberto Dainese (Team DSM) ,,
10 Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain - Victorious) ,,

Overall Top Ten

1 Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 9:43:50
2 Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) +0:11
3 Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma) +0:16
4 Matteo Sobrero (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) +0:24
5 Wilco Kelderman (BORA - hansgrohe) ,,
6 Ben Tulett (Ineos Grenadiers) ,,
7 Tobias Foss (Jumbo-Visma) +0:28
8 Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) ,,
9 Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious) +0:29
10 Mauro Schmid (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team) ,,
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