Mark Cavendish may not have won stage 3 of the Tour of Turkey but his third-place finish behind Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) felt like a victory for the Manxman. The result was the first time that Cavendish has featured in the top-three of a stage or one-day race since the final stage of the Adriatica Ionica Race last June.
The past two seasons have been difficult for Cavendish with the Epstein Barr Virus forcing him to spend large swathes of time sitting on the sidelines. Having called time on his 2018 campaign in August, Cavendish’s return to racing has been fairly quiet. He had a setback in March when he abandoned Paris-Nice on stage 2, but Cavendish was delighted to be back in the mix for the first time in months.
“It was good. I think it was the first time that I’ve sprinted with the chance of a win for 13 months maybe,” Cavendish said in his pre-podium interview, perhaps referring to his second place at last year’s Tour of Oman. “I’m really happy with it. We were celebrating it like a win. We have a young group of guys, guys that haven’t really ridden together. More than a result, the commitment from the guys, that means more than if I had won.”
Dimension Data were heavily present in the final kilometres of stage 3, bringing the entire team up towards the front to assist Cavendish. Up and coming sprinter Ryan Gibbons was there as the penultimate rider in the leadout with the returning Mark Renshaw back in the position as Cavendish’s last man.
In the chaotic sprint, Cavendish kept a watchful eye on the QuickStep and Bora-Hansgrohe sprint trains, latching onto Bennett’s wheel in the final 200 metres. He had to slow briefly as he navigated his way around his former leadout man at QuickStep, Max Richeze, who had peeled off to let Jakobsen begin his sprint for the line. On another day, Cavendish said that he may have complained about needing to slow for Richeze, but he was happy to be at the front again and working with a team that is eager to work.
“It was a block headwind finish. Look, if I’d been winning then I probably would have come up with an excuse that I had to stop pedalling for the leadout guy,” explained Cavendish. “In a block headwind, you never get your speed up a bit. But, just to be sprinting for the win after that long I’m happy. You have to be consistently doing that for it to be something good, rather than just a one-off. We’ll keep going.
“There’s a neo-pro in the team, Ben O’Connor is in the team and I’ve never raced with him and Mark [Renshaw] has been out six months. I wanted to race with a group of guys where it isn’t a process. We can go in with a childish ambition to want to work together. That’s what we got, so I’m quite happy with that.”
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