Mark Cavendish was surrounded by a throng of journalists, cameramen and photographers at the start of stage two of the Tour de France, but it was for very different reasons than he had originally envisaged. Had things gone to plan, the attention he would have got would have been for victory on stage one and the first yellow jersey of the race.
Instead, it was to confirm that he would not start the stage and would instead likely face surgery.
Cavendish had set his mind on winning the sprint into Harrogate but when he found himself hemmed in, he sought to shunt Simon Gerrans sideways and create the space he needed to push forward. Instead, both riders ended up hitting the ground hard; while Gerrans was lucky enough to emerge with just abrasions and bruises, Cavendish suffered a separated shoulder.
He had hoped to continue but that proved impossible. “I think we kind of knew last night. Normally I bounce back, but this is the first time in my career I knew something was wrong,” the Omega Pharma Quick Step rider said outside the team bus.
“I held a bit of optimism that maybe it was just swelling and it go down during the night, but it is actually worse this morning.”
Cavendish said that he was very disappointed to leave the race, not least because he felt the Omega Pharma Quick Step team will have a strong Tour de France and he wanted to share in that.
“Not being part of the success they will have in the next few weeks will be pretty difficult. But it could be worse for me,” he reasoned. “I have got friends like Taylor Phinney who is out for the rest of season. I have got friends who have come back from Afganastan with the Armed Forces [with bad injuries].”
Cavendish said that one of those soldiers contacted him yesterday. He is a double leg amputee also lost his right arm. “He sent me a message joking yesterday, saying ‘I have got a spare arm,’” said Cavendish, using the black humour to put things in perspective. “Things could be worse. I have got everything still there. It was my fault at the end of the day.”
To Cavendish’s credit, he was quick to admit that the crash was of his own making. He said as much in a team statement yesterday and also said that he would make things right with the other rider who went down, Gerrans.
“I spoke to Simon after the finish and asked him if he was all right. I called him when we were in the hotel,” he said, confirming that the apology had been made. “We were both going for Sagan’s wheel. I think you know the circumstances. I wanted it so bad that I tried to find a gap that wasn’t there.
“I hope he is okay. Today is a stage for him, he is going well this year, he will do well in this Tour de France. He is a good guy and I really hope the race goes well for him.”
Omega Pharma Quick Step directeur sportif Willfried Peeters said that the team will adapt in order to try to recover from the situation. It is still important for the squad to have as good a Tour as possible.
“We need to change the tactic,” he told CyclingTips. “Normally we go for the bunch sprints. Now we have more options to go in the breakaways. We have a lot of guys [for that], like Bakelants, Tony Martin, Terpstra, Trentin. And we have Kwiatowski for the general classification.”
Cavendish left York and was driven away by his wife Peta Todd. He is due to have a MRI and will likely have surgery to anchor the separated shoulder. He said that his aim is to do that as soon as possible in order to get back racing.
Peeters was tight lipped on when that would be. He wouldn’t comment whether or not the Briton could do the Vuelta a España.
Whatever his targets will be for the rest of the year, Cavendish is deeply disappointed to be out of a race he had hoped to do well in. Still, he was able to see the bigger picture and accept that crashes are unfortunately something that happen in the sport.
“It is bike racing. It is my job. I am paid well to compete in bunch sprints, and that is part and parcel of bike racing.”