Mark Cavendish and his Omega Pharma-QuickStep team-mates are chatting over dinner after a stage gone wrong in Tirreno-Adriatico. Instead of finishing off its work, the Belgian train washed away with rain that was pounding the pavement.
Spirits were low around the bus as riders and staff expected a proper Cavendish-lashing. He retained the blue leader’s jersey that he wore thanks to the team time trial win the day before, but the thrill was gone.
“A lot went wrong,” Cavendish’s final lead-out man, Gert Steegmans told Cycling Weekly.
Rain water ran by the bus, he remarked that it looked like Venice. This, however, was far from an Italian vacation.
The second stage of Tirreno-Adriatico travelled Tuscan roads from the coast to Indicatore outside of Arezzo. Over the 232 kilometres, the rain became heavier and heavier. Steegmans believes that 75 per cent of the peloton did not even want to be racing.
OmegaPharma led most of the day. FDJ, Lotto-Belisol and Cannondale later took over. The plan was for Tony Martin, Niki Terpstra and then Steegmans to take over heading to the finish line.
“That’s what we tried to do today. Until 1.5k to go, it was going fine, but then we lost all of those positions,” Steegmans added.
At 1.1km out, the riders faced a 100-degree left turn, a turn they had already covered four times in the closing circuits.
“There was a lot of stress in the last corner. We were next to the Lotto guys; Cannondale was on the left and all of a sudden, they came to the right and stopped us.
“Tony Martin touched his brakes. You can’t blame him because he is here for a good GC. He thought it was actually slicker than it was and we lost a few places. We tried again. At 500m to go, Niki stopped and I was doubting if I should go left or right. I decided on left and Cavendish when right.”
A dinner chat
Cavendish walked into the press room looking cold and concerned. He clarified immediately that he was unhappy with how his team-mates delivered him into Indicatore.
“I’m quite disappointed in my lead out to be fair. I know they can be better than that,” Cavendish said.
“We got the best team, we should be better than that. We will just talk about my feelings and see what everyone thought tonight.”
A blurry image
TV failed to clarify what happened. Many of the cyclists wore rain capes to keep dry. They helped, but they covered their normal racing colours.
“That could have been part of the reason they lost each other in the lead-out,” Omega Pharma sports director, Brian Holm told Cycling Weekly.
“With a roundabout like that in the last kilometre nothing is going to work perfectly. As far as I could see, nothing was working for anyone. I don’t believe Goss even had a perfect lead-out. With a roundabout everything is really going to explode.”
Cavendish admitted ahead of Tirreno-Adriatico that his new team pays him a lot of money and that he wants to win to pay them back with wins. He won four of six stages and the overall in the Tour of Qatar last month, and a stage in San Luis in January. Today, however, he lost one of his two chances in his first WorldTour race of the season.
The 199km stage to Narni Scalo tomorrow will be Cavendish’s next and only chance to win ahead of Milan-San Remo next Sunday.
“I don’t like to lose either. We will talk about what went wrong, what we can do better, but I think it’s only a lack of automation,” Steegmans said.
“We don’t have many chances here, but you can’t change today. We are all in good shape and Cav knows it because we showed it yesterday.”