Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) rode the Tour of Flanders with two objectives: helping Bernhard Eisel to the win and to experience the race first-hand, having never competed in the Belgian Classic. After he crossed the line it was time to reflect on his day in the saddle and his first experience in the 'Ronde'.
"I tried to look after Bernie as much as I could at the beginning," said a visibly weary Cavendish as he sat on the steps of the HTC-Columbia bus. "It wasn't too hard then, I was just trying to keep him out of the wind."
However a crash and subsequent mechanical problems after 160km put an end to his work in the front group and from then on it was just a matter of survival. "I crashed just before Kluisberg. It was just a crash in the peloton, the kind that happens all the time and someone went into me from behind.
"That wrecked my rear mech and it wouldn't go into the 25 or down into the 11 so coming down into the Oude Kwaremont it was a downhill at full gas sprint and I was going backwards. It was a hard race and I ran out of sugar big style."
Cavendish was still determined to ride to the finish and despite being recorded as s DNF (did not finish) by the organisers he crossed the line to complete his first Tour of Flanders.
"I was alright but I went back three groups in the last 50 kilometres and I was dropped by all three. Boom, boom, boom."
Cavendish came into the race looking to gain experience in an event he grew up watching as a child and dreams about one day winning. The sprinter has had a difficult year to date though, recording just one win after a winter disrupted by dental problems.
"It's a hard race but everyone said it was a hard Flanders to start with due to the course. There's no time for recovery and it's just stress, big stress for everything," he said.
His passion for the race remains and although unsure about whether he can come back and win, it's something he will return to next year. "I've loved this race, since as long as I can remember," said Cavendish. "It was great the amount of people and all. I'll come back again and hopefully my winter will be a little better.