Cavendish triumphs again
Ravenna - British specialist Mark Cavendish won his second Giro d'Italia stage in three days, taking the 12th leg with another sprint victory on Thursday.
Alberto Contador retained the overall lead, with a long series of difficult mountain stages beginning on Friday.
Cavendish rode the mostly flat 184-km route from Castelfidardo to Ravenna in 4 hours, 17 minutes, 25 seconds. Italians Davide Appollonio and Alessandro Petacchi finished second and third, respectively, both with the same time.
"This was the last sprint in this Giro and it's really big for me and the team," Cavendish said. "I'm going home tonight to recuperate for the Tour de France. But it was a successful Giro for me and the team."
Cavendish also won stage 10 on Tuesday, and has seven Giro victories in his career.
After five kms, four riders broke away from the main pack: Miguel Minguez Ayala of Spain, Davide Ricci Bitti of Italy, Stefan Clement of the Netherlands and Michal Golas of Poland.
The four riders led by more than three minutes at one point but were caught by the pack with 14 kms to go.
Cavendish's HTC-High Road team rode in front for the final kms and launched the Isle of Man rider for a perfect sprint.
"We controlled the entire stage," Cavendish said. "The team did an incredible job."
Several riders crashed just before the final km.
Stage 13 on Friday is a 167-km leg from Spilimbergo to Grossglockner, Austria, featuring four climbs, including an uphill finish.
Stage 14 on Saturday is perhaps the toughest of the race, a 210-km leg from Lienz, Austria, to Monte Zoncolan. It features five climbs, plus the harrowing Crostis descent, and ends with one of the toughest climbs in Europe - Monte Zoncolan.
Results on Thursday from the 12th stage of the Giro d'Italia, a mostly flat 184-km leg from Castelfidardo to Ravenna:
1. Mark Cavendish, Britain, HTC-High Road, 4 hours, 17 minutes, 25 seconds.
2. Davide Appollonio, Italy, Sky, same time.
3. Alessandro Petacchi, Italy, Lampre, same time.
4. Roberto Ferrari, Italy, Androni, same time.
5. Gerald Ciolek, Germany, Quickstep, same time.
6. Fabio Sabatini, Italy, Liquigas, same time.
7. Manuel Belletti, Italy, Colnago, same time.
8. Mirko Selvaggi, Italy, Vacansoleil, same time.
9. Mark Renshaw, Australia, HTC-High Road, same time.
10. Manuel Antonio Cardoso, Portugal, Radioshack, same time.
Overall Leaders (After 12 of 21 stages)
1. Alberto Contador, Spain, Saxo Bank, 44 hours, 55 minutes, 16 seconds.
2. Kanstantsin Sivtsov, Belarus, HTC-Highroad, 59 seconds behind.
3. Vincenzo Nibali, Italy, Liquigas, 1:21.
4. Christophe Le Mevel, France, Garmin, 1:28.
5. Michele Scarponi, Italy, Lampre, same time.
6. David Arroyo, Spain, Movistar, 1:37.
7. Roman Kreuziger, Czech Republic, Astana, 1:41.
8. Jose Serpa, Colombia, Androni, 1:47.
9. Dario Cataldo, Italy, Quickstep, 2:21.
10. Matteo Carrara, Italy, Vacansoleil, same time.