Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) will have to wait another year before he gets a chance to win Gent-Wevelgem. For the second year in a row the British rider was ruled out of contention before the sprint, but unlike last year when a crash put paid to his chances, this time he was distanced on the descent of the Kemmelberg.
At the finish in Wevelgem Cavendish said that it wasn’t a matter of poor legs but that a rider ahead of him couldn't hold on, creating a gap that became insurmountable in the closing stages of the race. Having crested the top of the Kemmelberg in the top 30 riders today’s result will be seen as missed opportunity for the Sky leader.
“It’s just that usual thing. You happen to be on the one wheel that loses a wheel in front,” he told reporters at the finish.
“We turned left on the descent of the Kemmel and it was one line. It wasn’t that hard to be honest but when you’re head down it’s quickly 30 meters and you can’t get across.”
“It would have been better to be nearly the front but I was in the top 25 and thought I was laughing but next time I’ll have to be top 10.”
Cavendish’s group were just 25 seconds down on a group that included eventual winner Tom Boonen (Omega-Pharma QuickStep), Peter Sagan (Liquigas) and Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack) but with no assistance from other teams the advantage quickly grew to over a minute.
There was a brief show of defiance as Cavendish attacked in the closing kilometres but by then the race was already lost and the world champion must now focus on the rest of his season’s targets.
Scheldeprijs is a provisional date in the calendar but his defense of last year’s title is uncertain, with the birth of his first child possibly clashing.
Despite today’s result Cavendish has had a spring campaign with a number of positives. An early win in Qatar, followed by a faultless showing in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne being the two biggest standouts. His disappointment in Milan-San Remo and a crash in Dwars Door Vlaanderen can be improved upon and with the Giro, Tour and Olympics fast approaching he will have many opportunities in the coming weeks and months.
But the world champion, as ever the perfectionist, is already looking to next year. “I can win here,” Cavendish said as he stepped onto the Sky bus. “It is a hard Gent-Wevelgem but I hope next time it’s better.”