The first stage of the 2013 Tour de France was supposed to be a day of glory for Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma Quick Step). The stage would inevitably end in a bunch sprint that suited the fresh British champion perfectly. However, a bus that got stuck under the finish line arch turned things around. The finish line was moved back 3km while the peloton was a short distance away. When the bus eventually got free, the finish line was put back to its original position. A little later, there was a huge crash in the peloton and Cavendish was blocked. That meant no win, no yellow jersey and no green jersey for the Manxman.
Cavendish's reaction to the stage contrasted with that of the happy stage winner Marcel Kittel, who shouted out loud and jumped into the arms of his teammates. Cavendish congratulated Kittel and then headed for the bus. His wife and daughter awaited him there where he learned what damage the crash had done.
Several teammates were licking their wounds. Then Tony Martin lost consciousness, twice. Gone were the thoughts of a missed win. Cavendish made space and left the bus, once again greeted his family and took off, offering a quick word to the awaiting press as well.
"It wasn't too different to a normal Tour de France stage," Cavendish said. That was until the finish line was put at the 3km mark where the organizers had a photo finish system set up. "What caused the problems was changing the finish. Like we heard in the radios at literally 5km to go that the sprint was in 2km. Then a kilometre later, no, it's at the finish. Then it was carnage," Cavendish said.
Before the race, there were high expectations, but Cavendish explained he wasn't the only rider who didn't realize his dream of winning the stage and taking yellow. "I'm not the only one. [...] Luckily I didn't come down. I was behind it. My teammates are a lot worse off. Tony Martin is in a bit of a state here. I can count myself pretty lucky. He's [Martin] not in a good way," Cavendish said. "I wasn't the only favourite. It's not as bad as it could be."
On Sunday, Cavendish might get a second chance at a stage win, when the peloton rides from Bastia to Ajaccio during the second of three stages on the island of Corsica. To achieve that goal, he'll have to survive the four categorized climbs, with the Côte de Salario at only 12km from the finish line. How many of his teammates will take the start is uncertain and even more in doubt is their condition.