The Deceuninck-Quickstep lead-out train was expected to queue up for Colombian fast man Alvaro Hodeg in the Clasica Almeria on Sunday but when he crashed, Florian Sénéchal became the first Frenchman to land on the podium in the early-season race in 17 years, finishing second behind winner Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka Assos).
The sprint was quick thinking by the 27-year-old who intended to be the last lead-out for Hodeg.
"It wasn't that I would do the sprint today, as normally I should have been the last guy in Alvaro's train. Then Mark too had that problem, so from that moment on it was me who was going to do the sprint," Sénéchal said.
"I wasn't too sure of myself, as I had already lost some energy controlling the race and protecting Alvaro, but I could still produce a good turn of speed and take an unexpected second."
Deceuninck-Quickstep pushed the pace in the closing kilometres, with Tim Declercq hitting the front in the crosswinds in an attempt to split the field, but as riders scrambled for position and came back together, Hodeg ended up on the ground after a touch of wheels.
Cavendish then punctured on the final lap in Roquetas del Mar and mounted a furious chase but was unable to get back in touch with the flying peloton, and the team quickly switched roles, with Stijn Steels, Jannik Steimle and Bert Van Lerberghe leading out. "They once again showed how strong this team is," Sénéchal said.
Hodeg did not finish the race but the Deceuninck-Quickstep team said he was cleared of any fractures and will be assessed by the medical team.
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