A close-up look at the Australian's purpose-built ride
Australian's 2015 Tinkoff-Saxo team bike
Winner of the 2015 Tour Down Under
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Mark Cavendish heads for the start
CJ Sutton on a technical finale
Sprinters rarely take kindly to defeat and the best of the current generation is no exception. When Mark Cavendish (Sky) crossed the line a frustrated eighth on stage 3 of the Tour of Oman on Thursday, the Manxman headed promptly and silently for his team car.
Cavendish appeared to be hemmed in during the final sprint, and he was a forlorn spectator as Marcel Kittel (Project 1t4i) cruised to victory up ahead. The world champion already has two wins to his name this season, but was clearly disappointed to have missed out on the chance to add to that tally in Muscat.
While Cavendish sat in his tent, stewing over the whys and wherefores of his defeat, his teammate CJ Sutton talked reporters through the finale of a day that ended in disenchantment for Team Sky.
The Australian was charged with leading Cavendish out in the finale, but he explained that the technical nature of the run-in made it difficult to form a cohesive unit. As the road narrowed inside the final 10 kilometres, the battle for positions become ever more intense.
"I wouldn't say we got lost, we just lost a few positions," Sutton said. "It was all just a bit of a blur really, trying to look behind and make sure Cav was there and safe on the wheel. We did everything we could, it just wasn't good enough.
In the closing stages of the race, Cavendish had Sutton and Matt Hayman for company, before Jeremy Hunt succeeded in chasing back on after a puncture. Although they managed to keep Cavendish in contention, it seemed that no team had the numbers to dictate terms as the race reached its climax.
"I was just trying to keep Cav out of trouble," Sutton said. "It was all going perfect and we just got lost a couple of times. You have a plan and you try to execute it but sometimes it doesn't always go to plan."
After the stage, Sutton had a brief discussion with Cavendish, but he explained that the Manxman had not been disappointed by his teammates' efforts. "It was just that we were a bit too far back and he said one of the French guys just chopped him and he said he couldn't do anything about it, he just had to freewheel the last 50 metres," Sutton said.
Sky controlled the peloton for much of the stage, with Ian Stannard putting in a lengthy shift to keep tabs on the break of the day, a tactic which seemed to suggest that Cavendish had recovered from his crash at last week's Tour of Qatar.
"I think Cav's still feeling the effects a little bit from the crash in Qatar," Sutton said. "In saying that we've got the fastest guy in the world, it's the first time we've worked together and it's the second lead-out I've done for him. We're getting closer and closer.
"It's the first time we've all raced together, we're just working out the little kinks. In fairness, the whole team was so strong today but we just couldn't finish it off."