Mark Cavendish began his career at Omega Pharma-Quick Step with a perfect start at the Tour de San Luis, winning the opening stage and pulling on the leader's jersey after a hectic, high-speed finish. It was the first time Cavendish has won his first race of the season and eased any early season nerves.
The British sprinter's decision to move from Team Sky during the winter was due to the lack of support he was offered in 2012, with his previous team anchoring their ambitions around success in Grand Tours. It left Cavendish with limited options, and although he will have greater ambitions than stage wins at San Luis this season, this early-season win was an indication in the belief his new squad has in him.
"This is an incredible victory for me. I've joined a new team and I joined them because I wanted to be successful and I wanted to part of a successful team. They've really worked well with me over the winter and they put everything in place for me to perform. The first thing I wanted to do was to come here and be successful for them," Cavendish said at the winner's press conference.
"This is about working together and trying to build a new team. We've the dedication, because all day we had a jersey in the top three. It was a perfect finish. We've only done one stage but I already want to come back here next year."
With a virtually flat stage opening the race the responsibility for controlling affairs was always going to rest with the sprinters' teams. With Cavendish in his new colours the other teams in the bunch knew that the 2011 World Champion would be eager to impress and open his account with a win. However with WorldTour teams limited to six riders Omega Pharma-Quick Step were always going to need reinforcements when it came to organising a peloton and chase down the early break.
"The plan was to have four guys with 4km to go but we had to use up the guys early. Sylvain Chavanel was incredible. He was pulling hard for a couple of kilometres but then it became chaotic because there are a couple of teams who are really strong and have drilled lead-outs and there are a few that just cause carnage," Cavendish explained.
With fresh legs and a number of untried and untested lead-out trains, the finish line sprint saw a number of favourites fail. Peter Sagan split from Cannondale teammate Lucas Sebastian Haedo, while Jose Ventoso (Movistar) was held up by a late crash.
"It was really dangerous. There were people pushing, touching wheels and crashes. We finally became de-railed but I kept calm and Michal Kwiatkowski took me into the last corner in second place. Matteo Trentin was with me but Lampre had it a bit more together so I tried to find Lampre. Matteo came up but I was happy to stay on Lampre and then on Francesco Chicchi's wheel."
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