After Bradley Wiggins in the prologue, Mark Cavendish was left wondering what might have been, after a fall late in stage one of the Tour de France from London to Canterbury ended his dreams of a debut stage win.
"It was about 25 kilometres to go," Cavendish recalled after emerging from the T-Mobile team bus with grazes to his elbows and knees. "There was a group of spectators at the side of the road and the next thing I knew, I was on the floor. I must have hit one of them and I was down, quick as a flash,"
The 22-year-old sprinter bent his handlebars in the fall and lost valuable time as he was forced to switch bikes. More seconds slipped away as Cavendish decided to revert to his repaired original machine shortly afterwards.
"The bike was really damaged and I couldn't bloody straighten it. I had to change bikes in the end. With the motivation for today I was floating along and I was up for the end. I was in a good position, and confident," he said.
T-Mobile manager Bob Stapleton had earlier defended his team's decision not to commit more men to helping Cavendish after his fall. Stapleton said that the peloton was moving too fast for the youngster to recover and hope to compete in the bunch finish. "We thought that Mark was better off saving energy for the coming days," Stapleton explained.
It may yet prove a shrewd move, but the sight of Cavendish eventually rolling in isolated and frustrated over two minutes behind the main bunch didn't flatter T-Mobile. They have come to the Tour with their risks spread throughout their nine-man roster and stage-winning options aplenty. Unfortunately there's also a drawback to that strategy; we saw it today as "Die Mannschaft's" directeurs sportifs decided that Messers Burghardt, Eisel, Grabsch, Gerdemann, Rogers, Sinkewitz, Kirchen and Merckx couldn't be sacrificed on the off chance that Cavendish might emulate McEwen's miraculous return from oblivion.
Fortunately for T-Mobile, Cavendish was in the mood for recrimination. "I'll live to fight another day," he vowed.