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Mark Cavendish claims stage 13 of the Giro d'Italia

Photo: Gian Mattia D'Alberto/AP

Mark Cavendish (center) sprinted to the finish of the longest stage of the Giro d'italia.

CHERASCO, Italy (AP) -- Britain's Mark Cavendish sprinted to victory in the 13th and longest stage of the Giro d'Italia on Friday. Italy's Vincenzo Nibali kept the overall lead, boosting his chances of winning his home country's biggest cycling race for the first time.

Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and defending champion Ryder Hesjedal withdrew before the stage. Wiggins's team cited a "worsening chest infection." Hesjedal is more than 32 minutes behind and his team says he pulled out because of a "deteriorating physical condition."

With sun shining most of the way, Cavendish won in 6 hours, 9 minutes, 55 seconds. It was his second straight stage victory and the fourth in this year's Giro.

Giacomo Nizzolo was second, with Luka Mezgec third in the 158-mile leg from Busseto to Cherasco. Nibali, who finished third and second in his two previous Giro races, kept his 41-second lead over Cadel Evans.

Cavendish began his sprint more than 700 yards from the line, holding off Nizzolo and Mezgec for his 101st career victory. As always, he was quick to praise his Omega Pharma team.

"I'm so tired, I don't know how I'm going to recover from this before the mountains. ... I actually didn't want to go for the sprint today, but the guys stayed with me on the climbs," Cavendish said. "You saw the work they did. The guys ride and ride until their legs won't go anymore, and I'm so proud of that."

The Giro hits the mountains again over the weekend, with Saturday's stage climbing Sestriere and Bardonecchia over a 104-mile route from Cervere. The race ends May 26 in Brescia.

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