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Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) descends off Le Mànie
Defending champion loses contact on the Cipressa
Mark Cavendish had the consolation of being greeted by his girlfriend Fiorella after Milan-San Remo and it quickly helped him put the problems of the race and his troubled start to the season behind him.
Last year Cavendish broke down in tears after winning Milan-San Remo at the first attempt. This year he finished 89th, more than six minutes behind Oscar Freire.
He was disappointed but not angry because he had ridden well, despite having to chase the peloton on the Turchino after a wheel change, a crash on the descent of Le Mànie and then being dropped on the Cipressa.
Indeed, he even managed a laugh as he colourfully explained how one problem after another wrecked any chance of him going close to a second consecutive win.
"When we started off I didn’t feel too bad, then at the bottom of the Turchino, as we were fighting for position, I got three spokes ripped out of my wheel," he explained to gazzetta.it in a video interview.
"I had to do a wheel change at the bottom of the Turchino. I chased and right at the top I got back to the peloton but then there was a crash in the peloton on the tunnel. I started the descent and normally I'm a good descender. The peloton was in ten groups down the descent and I went through all the groups, boom, boom, boom, and into the second group but I think there was already 40 up the road."
Cavendish's voice only showed a hint of anger when criticised the Katusha team for attacking when he was struggling after having his wheel change.
"Katusha knew that I had problems and went. I don’t really think that's good sport to be honest," he said.
"They went full gas when I had mechanical problems. My team chased and chased and chased. They did an incredible job and we nearly caught them on the Manie. I suffered and suffered over the top but then I crashed on the descent. I went from the front to the back and so chased, chased again."
Cavendish eventually got back to the front of the race at the second feed zone, with 80 kilometres left to race. He looked relatively comfortable and spun a low gear on the early section of the Cipressa. But as the speed cranked up, he gradually slipped back, as bigger and bigger gaps opened in the peloton.
"We got back to the peloton again but then on the Cipressa it was, phew…" he said.
"Last year I had that little extra thing. If I'd started training just two weeks earlier, I'd have been okay. There was just one bit, where I knew I'd suffer and I did. At the top I started to get it back. I tried to go over the top and get it back on the descent but it wasn't possible…"
"I actually enjoyed it but I'm disappointed, obviously."
Cavendish will now travel to Spain to ride the Tour of Catalunya, before heading to Belgium for the Tour of Flanders.
His Milan-San Remo finished very differently to last year but he seems to back on his way back up after a terrible start to the season.