It's been said that having Mark Cavendish on your squad is both a blessing and a curse - he's a consistent winner year in, year out to the point that no other teams really want to assist in chasing down breaks only to come up short to the Manx Missile.
What was expected to be a second straight victory at the opening stage of the Tour de San Luis for Cavendish instead resulted in the early five-man break going the distance. Sacha Modolo would ultimately lead in the peloton 4:35 down on solo stage winner and initial Tour de San Luis leader Phil Gaimon (Garmin-Sharp).
Racing at the Tour de San Luis is a more chaotic endeavor than usual, particularly for the WorldTour teams, as the squads compete in Argentina with just six riders, making it that much more difficult for a single team to assert themselves for extended stints at the front. Throw in blast furnace heat and the early loss of a key rider and a normal day of a lengthy tempo session is suddenly no longer feasible.
That's exactly what happened to Omega Pharma-QuickStep in Stage 1 at the Tour de San Luis. The Belgian WorldTour squad assumed its position at the head of the peloton to set tempo once the early break escaped, but having lost Alessandro Petacchi not long after the start, facing extreme heat, plus no takers on assistance, they simply called off the chase. As a result, the break's lead mushroomed.
"The break was gone after only 2kms, so it was actually a perfect day for a field sprint," Omega Pharma-QuickStep's Tom Boonen told Cyclingnews. "We started controlling after 10km to keep the distance acceptable and then we were riding by ourselves until 70kms into the race. There was not anyone coming or eager to help.
"We just said 'stop' and it took ages for somebody to start riding again. We started helping again but it was way too late. The temperature today and the small teams may have cost the sprinters a sprint today."
Much was expected of the Omega Pharma-Quickstep sprint triumvirate of Cavendish, Boonen and Petacchi, but with the Italian out of the Tour de San Luis the team's prospects of victory in the remaining two sprinter-friendly stages becomes that much more difficult.
"It hurts a lot," said Boonen. "You only have six guys so it already limits [the ability] to do something in the race. If you have six strong guys you can do it, but if you lose Alessandro it's already five and then if have to sacrifice one or two riders in a day you really don't have anything left. You can't make any mistakes because if you lose another guy then it just falls apart."