Sidelined by Epstein-Barr Virus since April, Mark Cavendish rode to tenth place on his return to racing at the Tour of Slovenia. The Dimension Data rider hadn't raced since Milano-San Remo and despite freewheeling over the line in Kocevje Cavendish notched his best result since February.
"Hard to start racing again in mid-June. @tourofsloveniaofficial is the best race for it, for sure. Today was about my physical feelings more than a result. My team @teamdidata did an amazing job that would have normally produced a win, but I couldn't finish off their work," Cavendish wrote on Instagram.
Along with fellow WorldTour teams Bahrain-Merida and Bora-Hansgrohe, Dimension Data were set on ensuring a sprint finish to the stage. With 10km to race, the day's breakaway was caught with Dimension Data setting a pace that suggested Cavendish was ready to test his legs in the sprint. A crash over a bridge with one kilometre to race disrupted the sprint and resulted in a shoulder injury for Jacques Janse van Rensburg. The South African was taken to hospital for examinations.
Irishman Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) held off Bahrain-Merida's Sonny Colbrelli for the win and will wear the leader's green jersey on stage 2.
Describing the run into the line, teammate Bernhard Eisel explained that team's leadout train was in trouble inside the final 10km when he lost Cavendish and Mark Renshaw.
"This was definitely a tough day for all of us, especially for Cavendish and Renshaw after coming back from injuries. I think we did a good team effort. Unfortunately, we lost each other a little bit with 5 km to go," Eisel said. "I blame myself as I went too early, which caused Cavendish and Renshaw to make a big effort in order to get back up to us. They came around the last corner in 10th-12th position and that was just too far down to win. However, there is still another chance for a sprint stage and it was really good to see Cavendish motivated and ready to sprint. Let’s see what the next days will bring."
Stage two of the race starts and finishes in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana with an expected sprint finish.