For the second sprint running at the Tour de San Luis, Mark Cavendish had to settle for second best. In Villa Mercedes two days ago, Cavendish left his sprint too late and in Juana Koslay on Wednesday, a moment’s hesitation from his lead-out proved costly. On each occasion, the acceleration of the 20-year-old Colombian fast man Fernando Gaviria was simply irresistible.
As he had done on the first stage, Gaviria opted to anticipate Cavendish in the sprint, opening his effort early on the slightly uphill finish and quickly opening a winning gap. Like Cavendish, Gaviria comes from a track background, and after descending from the podium, the Manxman recognised a talent that had been honed on the boards.
“You can’t be upset because this guy is super fast,” Cavendish said. “I was coming back at him the whole time but the acceleration once again – he went with such a massive gap. He was junior world champion on the track and you can see from his acceleration that he’s a track rider.
“He can go super long. Being able to sprint from a distance like that is a sign of a track rider. It's very impressive.”
Once again, Cavendish’s Etixx-QuickStep team did the lion’s share of the work in pegging back the day’s early break on the seemingly interminably straight road south, and the men in black appeared to be in firm command of the situation on the approach to Juana Koslay.
Inside the final kilometre, however, the Colombian national team sparked into action in support of Gaviria. Their train moved to the front as the final rise to the line began to bite, and Etixx-QuickStep never got back on terms. Cavendish is without his regular pilot Mark Renshaw in Argentina and new arrival Fabio Sabatini – signed to be the penultimate man in the lead-out – has been temporarily thrust into the role for the week.
“They went and Sabatini hesitated. I had to leave Saba because they’d gone too far ahead but in the end Saba’s not a lead-out man,” Cavendish said. “I think we just hesitated a bit and that's a shame because it was the exact opposite of what we did the first stage when I let the team down that day. I had too much ground to make up today, which is too bad because the team really did ride great today going into the finish. The last kilometre slipped away a little bit.”
With two mountaintop finishes and a time trial to come in the next three days, Cavendish’s wait for his first victory of 2015 will continue at least until the race’s final leg on Sunday, though in any case, the success of the Manxman’s season will be judged on grander stages than this later in the year. For now, he declared himself content with his condition after an active winter that included appearances on the six-day circuit at Ghent and Zurich.
“I'm happy with my form and the team is riding well overall,” he said. “I'd still like to try and win a stage here at Tour de San Luis and it would be nice to get the first victory of the year out of the way.”