Giro d'Italia: Mark Cavendish completes consecutive wins
Britain's Mark Cavendish timed his finish to perfection to win a punishing stage 13 at the Giro d'Italia, his fourth victory of this year's race.
Coming after his 100th professional win on Thursday, the Manxman sprinted past Italian Giacomo Nizzolo to record his 14th career stage win at the race.
Italy's Vicenzo Nibali continues to lead the race by 41 seconds over Australian Cadel Evans.
Sir Bradley Wiggins abandoned the Giro with a chest infection on Friday.
The Team Sky rider's withdrawal leaves Colombian Rigoberto Uran as their best chance of winning the general classification. He remains third, two minutes and four seconds behind Nibali.
Cavendish retained the lead in the points competition but only after another terrific piece of sprinting saw him win the longest stage of the race - a 254km race to Cherasco.
"That will probably go down as one of Mark Cavendish's best ever wins, when you consider the shape he is in.
"He was tired on Thursday when he came off his bike and he didn't really want to be involved today.
"But the team orders came and it was just about doable for him but he had to work really hard for that one.
"He lost his lead-out man so he had to make the jump early before anyone tried to block him.
"The road wasn't massively helpful either - it was a bit soft and almost like that rubbery stuff you get in kids playgrounds so it was a bit like riding through treacle which made the longer sprint harder.
"We are heading to Bardonecchia now but we still don't know if Saturday's stage will finish there.
"The local weather reports are bad but in terms of the overall outcome of the race it won't make much difference if the race is curtailed - all it will do is cheer up the the riders."
He lost his lead-out man Gert Steegmans in the final kilometre and was forced to sprint from 350m out, almost double his optimum distance, however, he went clear of Nizzolo and Luka Mezgec and held on for the win.
Almost immediately Cavendish collapsed off his bike with exhaustion but he had his soigneur on hand to help him and after a quick drink he was soon back on his feet.
He told BBC Sport: "I wanted to take it easier today but the breakaway group got to 13 minutes clear and Orica started riding and then we put one on the front but I didn't want to ride and I told the coach I didn't want to ride.
"I said give the guys a break, they rode hard on Thursday and give me a break, I'm tired, I need to get through the mountains."
"On the climb the whole team stayed with me and they were super supportive and gave everything once again so all I could do was try to finish it off.
"I'm super tired now but so happy with the result."
It was a rare sunny day in northern Italy for the peloton which has been battered by torrential rain for much of the opening couple of weeks.
But the bad weather looks set to return, with snow forecast, as the race heads into the Alps this weekend.
Saturday's 168km 14th stage is scheduled to finish in Bardonecchia at the top of a 7km climb, however race organisers are reportedly considering a change to the finish in order to eliminate the climb.
Stage 13 results:
1. Mark Cavendish (GB/Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) 6:09'55"
2. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita/RadioShack) ST
3. Luka Mezgec (Slo/Argos-Shimano)
4. Brett Lancaster (Aus/Orica)
5. Elia Viviani (Ita/Cannondale)
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita/Astana) 52:38'09"
2. Cadel Evans (Aus/BMC Racing) +41"
3. Rigoberto Uran (Col/Team Sky) +2'04"
4. Robert Gesink (Ned/Blanco) +2'12"
5. Michele Scarponi (Ita/Lampre) +2'13"