Cavendish had stated beforehand that he had no expectations of contesting the final general classification of the race, and so it was something of a surprise when Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins opted to wait for the gold jersey when the peloton was broken up in crosswinds in the final 50 kilometres.
Sky directeur sportif Servais Knaven said afterwards that Wiggins had been caught in no man’s land between Cavendish’s group and the leaders, and he opted to try and pace his teammate back to the front.
“At that moment it was the point of no return. Brad was in between the two groups waiting for Cav and the gap looked shorter than it was. Brad wanted to help us defend the jersey today and did everything he could to help Cav,” Knaven said, according to the team website.
It was a difficult day all around for Sky, as the in-form Luke Rowe also slid out of overall contention when he was dropped from the 27-man group that would eventually contest stage honours.
“We hoped for a bit more today but it’s been a hard race up to this point and a hard season,” Knaven said. “Luke was in the front group but dropped off in the crosswinds when everybody went for it. From that point on it was not possible to come back.”
Marc de Maar (UnitedHealthcare) went on to win the stage, while Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEdge) regained the overall lead. Christian Knees is now Sky’s best-placed rider on general classification as the race enters is decisive final three days. The German lies 5th overall, 24 seconds down on Howard.
“Christian did a really good ride which was good to see,” said Knaven. “He didn’t have his best day today he said but he was still up there for the GC.”