Dimension Data's Mark Cavendish lives to fight another day at the 2019 Tour of California, despite having lost contact with the back of the race with 80km of the 214.5km-long stage 2 still to go on Monday.
While he may ordinarily have been in danger of finishing outside the time limit, the long nature of the stage meant that the cut-off time was set at 60 minutes after the stage winner, and the British sprinter was able to make it to the finish 36:09 behind the day's victor, Kasper Asgreen of Deceuninck-QuickStep.
The second stage's unrelenting climbing from Rancho Cordova to South Lake Tahoe, which peaks out at 2,627 metres of elevation, proved too much for Cavendish, and he lost contact with the race with around 80km to go, struggling to regain contact with the peloton despite teammate Bernie Eisel's efforts to help.
The day's climbs were not especially steep, but more than 4,500 metres of climbing at altitude made for a long day for everyone, and Cavendish was left with Eisel to try to battle through the stage, and the pair were already more than 12 minutes off the pace with 70km remaining.
Photographers at the race told Cyclingnews that Cavendish at one point shouted at Eisel to go back up the road to try to rejoin the race, but the ever-faithful Austrian stuck by his friend and team leader to shepherd him through the stage.
Indeed, Eisel and Cavendish are no strangers to battling through mountain stages together to try to get home inside the time limit. A seemingly upbeat Cavendish tweeted after Monday's stage that he was glad to have ticked the Lake Tahoe stage off this year's race route, and that it was "like a re-run of our day in 2016" – presumably referring to the eighth stage from Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon at the 2016 Tour de France, when Cavendish and Eisel were left to fend for themselves on what was a boiling hot day in the Pyrenees, but eventually made it back into the gruppetto, and finished 39:24 behind the day's winner, Chris Froome.
"Well, glad that day's out the way!" wrote Cavendish. "Always the stage I dread most in the cycling season. Racing up to Lake Tahoe at the Tour of California was like sitting on the indoor trainer for seven hours. Half of it with just Bernie Eisel for company. Like a re-run of our day in 2016."
Team Novo Nordisk's Fabio Calabria, meanwhile, was last on the stage – a place behind Cavendish – and lost 47:35 to the stage winner, although the Australian will still be able to start Tuesday's third stage: a less tough, but still difficult, 208km route from Stockton to Morgan Hill.
Well glad that day’s out the way! Always the stage I dread most in the cycling season. Racing up to Lake Tahoe in @AmgenTOC was like sitting on the indoor trainer for 7hrs. Half of it with just @EiselBernhard for company. Like a re-run of our day in 2016.— Mark Cavendish (@MarkCavendish) May 14, 2019