By Alasdair Fotheringham
CERVERE, Italy (Reuters) - British world champion Mark Cavendish won his third bunch sprint of this year's Giro d'Italia and the 10th of his career in the race before confirming he would continue into the mountains.
The Team Sky rider's triumph ahead of Alexandre Kristoff of Norway and Australian Mark Renshaw, a former team mate, was his 33rd Grand Tour win.
In his two previous Giros, in 2009 and 2011, Cavendish pulled out after roughly two weeks of racing but said he would carry on this time despite being involved in crashes on stage three and nine.
"When I came to this year's Giro, I planned 100 percent on going to Milan and I really planned on a spell early on in the maglia rosa (of leader)," he told reporters.
"Obviously with the crashes, the red jersey (of points leader) might be out of the window but I still don't have plans to go home.
"There were some hard days that I would probably have been ok with if I hadn't crashed, but that really put me on the edge as my body wasn't great.
"Finally, after a week I recovered and I'm a bit stronger now. Assuming I don't get eliminated by the time cut (in the mountains) I don't see myself going home just yet," Cavendish added.
Blocked in on the left-hand side of Friday's sprint with 150 meters to go, Cavendish said he had been lucky when key rival Matt Goss moved aside and gave him a clear run at the finish.
"At first I thought he was just giving me a free sprint, but from the helicopter TV shots I saw later he was moving ahead of Mark Renshaw. I was lucky," said the 26-year-old.
Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez kept the overall lead for a fourth straight day, although he thought Saturday's mountain stage, culminating in a 28-kilometre ascent to Cervinia, would see him on the defensive.
"I'm expecting (Ivan) Basso to attack because he keeps on saying that Saturday is when the race starts," Rodriguez told reporters. "The rest of us are tired already.
"With a drop to two degrees and snowfall expected in Cervinia's summit, the change of weather, too, will have a big effect on the racing," he added.
The Giro d'Italia finishes on May 27 in Milan.
(Editing By Alison Wildey)