By Alasdair Fotheringham
TREVISO, Italy (Reuters) - Britain's Mark Cavendish racked up the 100th win of his career on stage 12 of the Giro d'Italia on Thursday but Bradley Wiggins's hopes of overall victory were in tatters when he lost time on the main bunch.
Tour de France champion Wiggins, who has been suffering from a chest infection, was dropped in the final hour of the 134-km stage to Treviso after being caught on the wrong side of a split in the bunch.
Although his Sky team mates chased hard to regain contact, the main pack was racing flat out to catch five breakaway riders and Wiggins, rain streaming off his helmet, lost over three minutes finishing 122nd on the stage.
The 33-year-old Briton, who had been fourth overall behind race leader Vincenzo Nibali at the start of the day, dropped to 13th in the standings, five minutes and 22 seconds behind the Italian. Australia's Cadel Evans is second, 41 seconds back with Wiggins's Sky team mate Rigoberto Uran third at 2:04.
"We learned that he was already a minute back after a descent," Nibali told reporters. "Although this was short, it was very hard with the rain, he lost a lot of time."
With his overall chances now almost non-existent, Wiggins's next challenge will be getting through Friday's mammoth 254-km stage from Busseto to Cherasco, the longest of the race.
Cavendish's Omega Pharma-Quick Step squad drove hard through torrential rain to catch the breakaway riders in the final kilometer, setting the sprinter up for his third stage win of this year's Giro and his 10th victory of 2013 ahead of France's Nacer Bouhanni and Slovenian Luka Mezgec.
"I did almost nothing, my team did an amazing job," Cavendish told reporters.
"Matteo Trentin guided me through the last two kilometers, Julien Vermote the previous three or four, so it's a great win for me, but an equally great one for my team."
Cavendish turned professional in January 2007 and took his first victory in April that year in the Scheldeprijs one-day Classic in Belgium. His first Giro win was in the 2008 race
The 27-year-old has also taken 23 stages of the Tour de France, the 2009 Milan-San Remo Classic, and the 2011 world championships.
"People can talk about it but I just say that I am pleased to be able to win for myself, my team and my sport," Cavendish said. "That's all I want to do."
The Giro d'Italia finishes on May 26th in Brescia.
(Editing By Alison Wildey)