Mark Cavendish sprinted to victory in Florence on Friday, taking his third Giro d’Italia stage win in six days and his eleventh win of the season.

Cavendish crashed early on stage 13, but the was able to get back into the racing and win the 176 kilometre stage from Lido di Camaoire to Florence, a day after his 24th birthday. Already victorious on stages nine and 11, Cavendish powered across the line on stage 13 ahead of Italy’s Alessandro Petacchi. He paid tribute to his team for putting him in the best possible position to do so.

“I can safely say I’ve got the best support team in the world and the best lead-out man [Mark Renshaw],” Cavendish said afterwards. “They always put me in the perfect position for the sprint and all I have to do is finish it off. Today we didn’t take the sprint on as we have done in the last few days. We played it cool and then used our strength to get past.”

“This was certainly the most difficult stage of the three I have won. There were a lot of teams pushing for success and that made it difficult for us. But I’m lucky that I’ve got guys that are super-dedicated, Konsta [Konstantsin Sivtsov] is here for the general classification but he still did a lot of work in the last ten kilometres. Edvald [Boasson Hagen] is tired but still did a great job. I think Mark [Renshaw] is the best lead out man in the world, he does lot of work in the last kilometre. I don’t need to look, I just follow his back wheel and then finish it off.”

Cavendish said he had started the Giro d’Italia with three objectives, amongst them Friday’s stage.

“There were three special stages for me in this Giro. I knew  I had a chance of winning whilst wearing the pink jersey in Trieste, then I wanted to win the Milan Show stage [stage nine] and then I wanted to win here close to my home. I have an apartment in Quarrata 20 kilometres from here, we went near it in the final ten kilometres of the race and a lot of people from there came to see me, as well as my fiancée Melissa. It’s important when you have got people you know there watching, it’s always beautiful to make them feel proud.”

Stage 13 will be Cavendish’s last stage of the 2009 Giro d’Italia. He will head home today and begin his recovery and lead up to the Tour de France.

“I love this race and I would love to stay until the end and support my team and give back to the race,” Cavendish said. “I will discuss the options with my team tonight and make a decision.”

After discussions the decision was made that Cavendish will withdraw.

“He has had a very successful couple of weeks at the Giro,” commented Team Manager Rolf Aldag, “but he is still young and he has a long career ahead of him. He has already raced 55 days this year and it is our view that the best thing for Mark is to take some recovery now before the Tour.”

In what is proving to be Columbia-Highroad’s most successful major Tour ever, Cavendish stage win is the squad’s sixth out of a possible 13 victories in this year’s Tour of Italy.

The team has also taken the team time trial, three stages with Cavendish and another two stages with Edvald Boasson Hagen and Kanstantsin Sivtsov. Lövkvist is currently leading the Best Young Rider’s competition, whilst Cavendish and Lövkvist also headed the overall classification in the race’s first few days.

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