Cavendish's points title tinged with regret

Mark Cavendish has revealed that a broken spoke in the final four kilometres of the last stage around Madrid almost cost him victory in the Vuelta’s points competition– and made a fourth win in Spain an impossibility.

Having finished second in Madrid behind Tyler Farrar, Cavendish showed journalists the buckled rear wheel which hampered him in the sprint to the line. Meanwhile, to the HTC-Columbia sprinter’s mild annoyance, Farrar made no mention of an incident which, according to Cavendish, he must surely have witnessed.

“With four kilometres to go, I felt something hit my back wheel, then I heard ‘Ping!’” Cavendish told Cyclingnews. “After that, my rear rim was rubbing on the brake pads all the way. I was doing between 700 and 800 watts just to hold my position. It felt like sprinting up a mountain. At the finish-line, I was on my knees. I even had to spew up behind the podium.”

“I saw Tyler after the finish… but he didn’t say anything to the press about what happened with my wheel. I don't like making excuses, but there was an obvious reason why I didn’t have my usual speed. Tyler did a great sprint nonetheless, and has been going well throughout the race. Under any other circumstances, I probably wouldn’t have even sprinted, but I knew that I had to finish in the top four to win the points jersey. That meant so much to me. It was life or death.”

It was a bitter-sweet end to a highly satisfying first Vuelta for Cavendish. He is set to return to his Italian home on Monday before flying to Australia to begin final preparations for the world championships on Tuesday. Strongly fancied to perform well in Geelong, he admitted on Sunday that he will leave Spain with good form and good morale.

“More than my three stage wins, I’m so happy with how the team has ridden here, and our five stages in total,” he said. “I’m tired, as you always are at the end of a grand tour, but I’ve got time to recover. I’m happy with my form.”

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