The Dimension Data rider missed the time cut by a large margin on Wednesday in La Rosiere but bravely insisted on fighting his way to the finish rather than throw in the towel and climb off mid-stage.
“We always knew these stages were going to be hard. Seeing them in October, we talked about it and said we would just have to try,” Cavendish said in an audio message on the team’s Twitter page.
“I tried and and I finished but was nowhere near fast enough. Several teammates waited to help him, but it was evident that I can only go my own pace on the climbs so I told them to carry on.
“Obviously I was disappointed but that’s bike racing and it wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last, and I'll just try to come back stronger next year.”
It never occurred to him to abandon and climb into the broom wagon.
“I never climb off... I climbed off as a neo-pro and I said never again, you know. I want to finish. The finish line is always cool. After the work my team does for me I can’t just stop.”
Teammate and sprint helper Mark Renshaw also missed the time limit, but finished ahead of Cavendish.
“It’s never great to lose any riders, especially the two Marks, given the three potential stages ahead, that we cold have had a go at,” said directeur sportif Roger Hammond on the African team’s website.
Cavendish’s has been forced to fight back from injury since his crash in stage 5 of last year’s Tour de France, where he clashed with Peter Sagan and fractured his shoulder. He started the 2018 season with a hopeful note, winning stage 3 of the Dubai Tour. Only a few weeks later, however, his bad luck returned as he crashed in the neutralised section of the first stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour, leaving the race with a concussion and whiplash.
His next race was the Tirreno-Adriatico, where he crashed, suffering a broken rib and facial injuries, missing the time limit on the stage 1 team time trial.
His worst crash was in Milan-San Remo, a horrifying collision with a bollard, with live television showing the Manxman flying off his bike and landing heavily on the road. He was lucky to come away with “only” another broken rib, multiple scrapes and bruises, and ankle problems.
Cavendish returned to racing some six weeks later, at the Tour of Yorkshire. He has been training hard and racing since then, bringing in a few top ten finishes. His best result in this year's Tour de France was eighth on Stage 8.