Mark Cavendish has compared the Commonwealth Games road race in Delhi, India, to a Spring Classic, after endless attacks left a select group of three hardened riders to contend for the medals. Cavendish said he was proud of his teammates for placing him in the lead group as the race neared its end, but Cavendish couldn’t keep up the pace of medal winners Allan Davis (Australia), Hayden Roulston (New Zealand) and David Millar (Scotland).
"It turned out it was me at the end in a group and all the strong nations had two riders each and you can't really compete there,” said Cavendish. “That was difficult.
"It was like a classic, just wearing down. I'm not used to doing that,” said Cavendish. “My races now, I have to sit in and sprint. I used to like getting stuck in, but with my commitments as a sprinter now, you can't do that. You kind of lose the edge a bit with doing that. I enjoyed it out there and I gave it everything.”
Cavendish was quick to praise Millar on not just his strength, but the Scott’s attempts to help him make the final selection. The Manxman said with such inexperienced squads it was in the interests of teams like Isle of Man and Scotland to join forces against teams like Australia, which won the race with Davis and also placed Chris Sutton in fourth.
"He was incredibly strong,” Cavendish said of Millar, before making a prediction of the rider’s hopes in the time trial. “It'll be two medals, because I'm positive he'll win on Wednesday. He did a great ride and he helped me out a little bit at the end and I'm sorry I didn't have the legs to stay there.
"It's kind of in your interests [to work together]. It doesn't matter what type of race it is if you've got three teams with two riders per team then the other people who are single, it's the only way you can stay there,” he said. “You're better in numbers."
But the bulk of Cavendish’s praise went to his Isle of Man teammates who are largely inexperienced compared to the Australian squad, which included three current professionals and the junior world champion. Cavendish admitted he felt like his seventh place in the event was a letdown for his teammates.
"All the guys did a really good job, that's why I went so deep. I gave everything I could because I couldn't let them down,” he said. "I did let them down with that result, but I gave everything I could. It's incredible, I'm so proud.
"I had to give everything I had after the guys rode incredible,” he added. "Graeme Hatcher rode pretty much from kilometre zero with Cameron Meyer and he rode strong. He held five guys at one and a half minutes and when it came back and the attacks started going I couldn't be more proud of the guys.
"It was great. We gave 100 percent: pulled on the jersey and we mixed it with the big boys. I had five amateurs with me and they rode like professionals today,” said Cavendish. “They rode like my HTC professional team. They took on the race and they gave everything.
"Okay, we didn't get the result we wanted, but we gave everything we could and we got beaten by stronger nations,” he added.
After eight weeks on the road – which encompassed the Vuelta a España, UCI Road World Championships and the Commonwealth Games – Cavendish is looking forward to returning home as his season draws to a close. "I'm ready for my own bed,” he said. “I've been away now for eight weeks since I've been in my own bed. I'm looking forward to that now.