Mark Cavendish wins Giro Italia stage after controversy

Mark Cavendish in action
Cavendish held the pink jersey after the second stage

Mark Cavendish earned his first stage win of the Giro Italia hours after he was accused of cheating by two rivals.

The Manxman won the 159km 10th stage from Termoli to Teramo after outsprinting Francisco Ventoso and Alessandro Petacchi at the finish.

But Ventoso claimed Cavendish had been towed up Mount Etna by a car in Sunday's stage after finishing 25 seconds inside the race cut-off point.

Garmin rider Murilo Fischer also accused Cavendish of receiving help.

"Incredible, he says he wants to win a stage at any cost and he does 10km holding on to a car," said the Brazilian.

And Ventoso criticised race organisers for not disqualifying Cavendish.

"It's shameful, everyone else kills themselves to get to the top inside the cut-off time while someone else holds on to a car without the authorities intervening," said the Team Movistar rider.

Cavendish's HTC-Highroad team refused to comment on the allegations, but the Manxman brushed them aside.

"We rode like madmen to try and stay inside the time limit," said Cavendish. "It's always the same, if I'm dropped but I finish inside the time limit it means I cheat. But I challenge Ventoso to spend a day with me in the peloton on a mountain stage.

"If I stop to pee, if I crash and change a wheel, I always have a race official - as well as an ice cream truck and a marching band - all watching me. If I can cheat then I'm stage magician David Copperfield."

Cavendish won the rolling stage in four hours and 49 seconds despite having to drop to the back of the peloton for a wheel change 50km from the finishing line.

"I am delighted to win my first stage," said Cavendish after earning his sixth career Giro stage victory.

"It was a good route and a perfect finish. In the final metres, I knew I had to be behind Petacchi´s wheel and then timed it well."

Three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador retained the leader's pink jersey.

The controversial Saxo Bank-SunGard rider maintained a 59-second advantage over HTC-Highroad's Kanstantsin Siutsou, with Garmin's Christophe Le Mevel a further 20 seconds adrift.