Mark Cavendish's run of bad luck continued Saturday at the Tour de Pologne when the Manxman went down in a corner about 4km from the finish and was unable to contest the final sprint.
The Dimension Data rider was positioned well in the bunch as the group started the final finishing circuit, but a touch of wheels in a slow-but-sharp left turn caused a crash that knocked Cavendish to the ground. He and teammate Jaco Venter were able to remount and finish the stage, with Cavendish coming in as the lantern rouge at 3:38.
"Unfortunately, luck was not on our side today," said team director Alex Sans Vega.
"Cav was our card for the final, but he couldn’t contest the sprint after being caught up in that tricky corner. It was more than a 90-degree corner and quite narrow. With everyone fighting for position, there wasn’t a lot of space," Sans Vega said. "We will go again tomorrow."
The 34-year-old rider's comeback from the Epstein Bar Virus, which he has battled for two years and was only declared healthy from this spring, has been marked by lacklustre performances and bad luck. His best result this year was a third place in a stage at the Tour of Turkey.
Since then, things have gone downhill. He abandoned the Tour of California on the final day after suffering through the previous six stages, then rode the Tour of Slovenia without cracking the top 50. He was 22nd on the British Road Championships.
After missing Dimension Data's selection for the Tour de France, his next race was the Adriatica Ionica in Italy at the end of July. On the first stage, which ended in a reduced-bunch sprint, he finished 105th, over nine minutes down on the winner after suffering a puncture during one of the the 23km of gravel roads. He abandoned the race on the second stage.
Cavendish came into Poland as the team's declared priority, although the roster didn't favour a strong lead-out train. On Saturday, Dimension Data positioned Cavendish in the first third of the group entering the local circuit, but when teams with stronger lead outs took over, he looked for the best wheels to follow.
The day's mission came to an end, however, when Cavendish hit the deck with 4km remaining.
Sunday's stage 2, a 152.7km route from Tarnowskie Góry to Katowice, is another flat day that looks tailor made for the sprinters.