Mark Cavendish almost got his season off to a perfect start in the Etoile de Bessége, taking second in the bunch sprint on the opening stage. The T-Mobile rider proved his sprinting prowess in a hectic sprint in Palavas-les-Flots at the end of the 148km stage, but was beaten to the line by Angelo Furlan of Credit Agricole.

Cavendish?s second place came the day after Jeremy Hunt?s win in the GP de la Marseillaise, with both results signalling a superb start to the season for British pro?s in the peloton.

Cavendish, along with Hammond, was under team orders to work for André Greipel, but the trio got separated in the run up to the finish, ?nobody made a mistake,? Sporting Director Allan Peiper said. ?The three of them got together and Roger shouted ?wait Cav?, because Roger was just behind him. Cav looked round and moved a little to the left and then they lost each other.?

Finding himself isolated in the final kilometre, Cavendish held his position before hitting the front with around 400 metres to go. The distance proved too far to hold a sprint, but the young Brit impressed by holding off all but one of the riders behind him.

The French race had started under blue skies, but soon after it started, so did the rain. As the rain came down the temperature plummeted and T-Mobile lost two of their eight riders. They then found themselves chasing a group of 13 along with Jeremy Hunt?s Unibet.com team.

The two teams brought the dangerous break back, but constant attacks followed on the hilly narrow route. With a final flat run in T-Mobile, along with Unibet.com, worked for a bunch sprint, but it was Credit Agricole that eventually took advantage and the win.