"Today was a bit of a bonus but I'm so tired and I don't know how I'm going to get into the mountains. I had to go 350m out after that hard day and I'm on my knees. I didn't want to go for the sprint for today but the call came from the team so I had to go for it. Once again the team did brilliantly and I had to finish it for them."
So there you have it, Cavendish struggled over the hills and won the stage in the red jersey which he reclaimed yesterday. Considering only 87 finished on the same time and 57 of the 187 left finished 16'32" after Cavendish it really was a day that for Cav his Omega Pharma-Quickstep who sat around him to nurse him over the hills did a sterling job.
It was also the day that saw the departure of two Grand Tour Champions, both Tour de France Champion Bradley Wiggins and defending Giro Champion Ryder Hesjedal didn't take the start. Both have been under the weather (probably literally as it has been poor this Giro) and have withdrawn on medical advice. The French national champion who had finished second to Cavendish yesterday had announced that he was quitting last night, probably so he can give his best to the tour whose colours he has been wearing this year.
All those retirements don't affect the GC much as Wiggins had dropped to 13th yesterday and Hesjedal was a lot worse. But it means that for Sky Rigoberto Uran who is in third 2'04" will look for another chance to attack like he did on Tuesday.
But there isn't very much flat land in the stage. The first climb is a long haul, but only a category 2 up to Sestriere. It is 16.25km climbing a total of 617 metres of altitude. It has a sharp descent but Nabili and Evans will have a harder time shifting Uran off their wheel thah they had with Wiggins. However there will be a selection by the time they get to Sestriere, one thing I can predict is that Cavendish will not even by then be in with a chance of adding to his stage wins.
Outside the top three you can't rule out Robert Gesink or Michele Scarponi who are 8 and 9 seconds further back than Uran. Any of the top five could still win this tour and it all depends on where and when they attack and who, if anyone can match them. With so many tough mountains still to come this race is not over and today and tomorrow are two tough days back to back. What happens today may well affect somebody in tomorrow's stage.