Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) conceded that it would be hard to win a stage at this year's Tour de France owing to the strength in depth at Peter Sagan's Bora-Hansgrohe and Fernando Gaviria's Quick-Step Floors teams.
On stage 1, Gaviria still had the majority of his team on the front of a reduced peloton as the sprint for the stage reached a dramatic climax. The Colombian took the spoils to land his first Tour stage in his maiden outing in the race. The win also ensured that he donned the yellow jersey for stage 2. Sagan finished second on the stage and has a team capable of challenging throughout the race.
Cavendish, who has won 30 stages in the Tour, finished 36th on the opening stage after losing ground in the final kilometres. The British sprinter has endured setbacks this season but came into the Tour looking to win his first stage since 2016. He does not have the firepower of his rivals in terms of his lead-out but he does have the experience to read a sprint.
"I don't know what happened really," Cavendish told ITV and Cyclingnews at the finish of stage 1.
"We [the team – ed.] lost each other really. The wind was playing and was a factor in the end, not enough to split it, but it caused a bit of chaos and we were at the wrong end of that chaos. We were too far back to even do anything. That's it. We'll try again."
Quick-Step have dominated the sprints this season, while Sagan has won Paris-Roubaix and a stage at the Tour de Suisse to name but two highlights. The depth of the sprint field is as good as ever this year, with Marcel Kittel and André Greipel also proven winners eager to make their mark.
When asked if he had seen enough on stage 1 to determine whether he could be competitive, Cavendish replied: "I don't know. It's going to be hard pushed to beat Bora and Quick-Step in any sprints this year. I can't really say why, but there's obviously next year."
ITV then pointed out to Cavendish that both Sagan and Gaviria ride bikes from the same manufacturer. Cavendish, on the other hand, rides a Cervélo.
Cavendish would not speculate if his rivals' success was in part down to their equipment, only saying: "We'll see next year… but it's going to be hard to beat them, I think."
There has been no confirmation as yet, but Dimension Data have been strongly linked to BMC bikes for 2019, while Cervélo will head to Sunweb next season.