Some you win, some you lose. Mark Cavendish has won a lot of sprints during his career and lost many others. He never likes to lose but shrugged off defeat this time and admitted a mea culpa after finishing third on the opening stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour won by Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo).
"I was just too far back in the last corner. I tried to move up but there were riders all up the road, so I had to soft pedal behind them. It was my fault," Cavendish explained to the media at the race, including Cyclingnews.
Cavendish's teammates had helped control and pull back the four-rider attack of the stage that included the strong pair of Orica-BikeExchange riders Michael Matthews and Jens Keukeleire. They made it hard for the peloton made up of six-rider teams to chase, with many opting not to help with the work.
Cavendish is always disappointed when his rivals don't do their share of the work to ensure a race ends in a sprint but he diplomatically refused to name names this time, preferring to praise his own riders.
"We're not a team who is willing to let a race slip away," he pointed out.
"So if it's not going to come back then we'll commit everyone. Maybe some teams are maybe here on holiday and they don't care if the break goes. The gap went up with 20km to go and they weren't easy guys to catch, they're strong guys. We put Youcef Reguigui up front, who was our third man but fortunately you could see the guys in the break were cooked."
Cavendish finished just ahead of young British rider Chris Latham in the sprint, with the Team Wiggins riders taking seventh place after coming off Cavendish's wheel. The two trained together as part of the Great Britain endurance track squad during the winter and Cavendish enjoyed poking fun of the young British rouleur after he tried to mix it with the big-name sprinters.
"He got in the way… Though he's a mate of mine and lived with me throughout the winter. He's a strong guy but he's not going to win a pro race just yet. I don't mean that in a bad way, he's good, Cavendish said before pulling up the British Continental team for not doing its share of work during the stage.
"We said it'd do the Wiggins team good to ride and get organised. But they said they weren't strong enough but then they were up there with six guys in the finale…" he said with a light-hearted sense of irony.
"I like a sprint with smaller teams because you get less guys up there but then we got all of Team Wiggins up there and going backwards. It's a little bit difficult…"