Team Sky’s plan ‘B’ to set up sprinter Davide Appollonio in favour of ill marquee signing Mark Cavendish on stage 1 of the Tour of Qatar proved to be disappointing for the British team, with the Italian finishing behind all the major fast men in eighth place.
Cavendish fell ill with fever just before his arrival in Qatar, forcing Sky to re-think their early options for the ASO-organised stage race. Appollonio was the team's most natural replacement for a lead-sprinter with the 22-year-old considered one of the most promising young sprint talents in the Sky stable. Ironically his biggest result - a second-place finish in the Ravenna stage of the Giro d’Italia last year - came when he was narrowly edged by Cavendish before he moved to Sky.
But the organisation of the Sky train, which has been perfecting its ability to deliver Cavendish to the line over the last few weeks, struggled to adapt to launching the Italian.
Team Sky sporting director Steven de Jongh explained that though things didn’t go perfectly for the team on Sunday, the key objective of the day was simply to nurse Manxman Cavendish through with a view to getting him back into the winner's circle later in the week.
"Cavendish actually had a pretty good day. He was helping out his teammates during the race, which was a pleasant surprise because we’d told him he didn’t have to do anything if he didn’t feel he was up to it after his illness.
"Our only goal for him was that he finished the stage today, and he did that comfortably."
De Jongh added the team hoped Cavendish would be able to use the team time trial tomorrow as an added day of recovery before he remounts a lead role on Tuesday’ stage 3 to Al Gharafa Stadium.