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Cavendish suffers in the heat but holds Vuelta lead

Mark Cavendish was disappointed to be beaten by Yauheni Hutarovich in the sprint in Marbella but second place meant he was able to the hold onto the red leader’s jersey despite suffering in the scorching heat.

Riders again faced temperatures above 40C during the first part of the stage, with temperatures only dropping as they reached the Mediterranean coast near the finish. Cavendish seemed to suffer the most, revealing he vomited several times during the stage. “It was a very difficult day, incredibly hot and the guys did an incredible job on such tough terrain,” Cavendish told the Reuters news agency.

“I had goose bumps and I was throwing up I was that hot. It was only when we got to the coast and the weather cooled down that I started feeling a bit more normal.”

“I’m incredibly lucky that I have such a great team of guys around me. They work so hard. I didn’t have to spend any extra energy at all. But the heat killed me. I was suffering a lot.”

Cavendish is without his usual lead out man Mark Renshaw at the Vuelta but can count on a strong team, with recent GP Plouay winner Matt Goss acting as his lead out in the final kilometre of the sprints.

Goss helped Cavendish hold a good position in the final kilometre and then the Manxman jumped on Tyler Farrar’s wheel before opening up his own sprint. He looked set to win the stage but then Hutarovich surged past him in sight of the line.

“It’s always disappointing when you don’t get a win after your teammates have worked so hard, but stage five is another good opportunity and we’ll try and take it,” Cavendish said.

“This race is the first time I’ve ridden with Matt Goss. It’s not quite the same as when I’m with Mark but we’re learning. It always takes me a couple of days to get into the rhythm of a major stage race too, so we’ll keep going and see what happens.”

Sprinters’ confusion

The sprint finish in Marbella was fast but no one team managed to control the lead out. Riders fought for position but lost their teammates' wheels in the hectic and dangerous high-speed finale.

Liquigas-Doimo sprinter Daniele Bennati, the highest ranking sprinter behind the HTC-Columbia team, was only 16th in the madness and lost his chance to take the leader's jersey from Cavendish. “The team did a good job but the guys lost each other when the sprint started,” Liquigas team manager Roberto Amadio explained.

“They hesitated a bit but they have good legs and that’s the most important thing for now. It’s hot and the course was hard today before the bunch sprint. The riders look tired.”

Garmin-Transitions also had problems with one if its main lead-out men, Julian Dean, who struggled in the heat after his crash before the previous night's team time trial. As a result Garmin-Transition opted not to take control of the lead out.

The team's director Johnny Weltz revealed that the day was a missed opportunity for Farrar, who was also within striking distance of the red leader’s jersey.

“Julian had an awful day because of his crash yesterday during the warm-up before the team time trial. He suffered like hell. He managed to hang on in the hill but he got dropped with 45 kilometres to go,” Weltz said.

“Without him, we didn’t want to work for a bunch sprint finish. We chose to try and profit from the situation that was offered by other teams leading out their sprinters. We were unlucky to be beaten by a rider who usually doesn’t win at such a high level.”

“It’s a pity because if Tyler Farrar had won today, there was a possibility for taking the red jersey with the time bonus. It’s not quite the day we hoped for.”

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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.