Team Sky rider Mark Cavendish of Britain holds his daughter Delilah Grace as he celebrates on the podium after winning the 209 km (130 mile) fifth stage from Modena to Fano of the Giro d’Italia, May 10, 2012. (REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo)

By Alasdair Fotheringham

FANO, Italy, May 10 (Reuters) – World champion Mark Cavendish celebrated the ninth Giro stage win of his career with a hug and kiss for his girlfriend Peta Todd before cradling his baby daughter Delilah as he stepped on to the winner’s podium on Thursday.

The Briton had a faultless leadout from his Sky team mates in the sun-drenched coastal resort to claim a sixth victory of 2012 in textbook style, then greeted his girlfriend and their daughter, born last month, at the finish.

Second in the bunch sprint that decided the 209-km stage was Australia’s Matt Goss, with Italian Daniele Bennati in third.

“I think there’s no feeling in the world better than holding your baby in your arms; the only thing that comes close is holding your baby in your arms after winning a stage of a bike race,” Cavendish told reporters.

“It’s the first race she has come to see me at, and it’s the first race I’ve won (with her here), so I’m happy and proud that she and Peta are here.”

Cavendish’s victory came three days after he gashed his leg and shoulder in a high-speed crash caused when Italian rider Roberto Ferrari switched lines close to the finish.

“I didn’t feel great, I haven’t slept properly since Monday,” Cavendish said, “but I still have a job to do.”

“I got a perfect leadout, the team did their job, but I spent a lot of time changing gears in the last 600 metres because it wasn’t such a fast sprint.”

“Right now Cavendish is impossible to beat,” said Goss. “We started accelerating at the same time and he just rode away.”

Lithuanian Ramunas Navardauskas continues to lead the race overall for a second day running.

“I had a stressful evening yesterday after getting the lead and didn’t get to bed till midnight, but today it was my team who had all the pressure, not me,” the Garmin-Barracuda rider said. “I was surprised at how hard they had to work.”

Friday’s 210-km stage from Urbino to Porto Sant’Elpidio takes the Giro into tougher terrain, with the peloton tackling several steep climbs in the Apennine hills.

The Giro finishes on May 27 in Milan.