The signs had been promising; he was in great shape, had wins under his belt, and he was the pre-race favourite. But on the big day, Mark Cavendish’s dream of winning Milan-San Remo in rainbow stripes was over at the top of Le Manie, 100 kilometres from the finish.

Distanced over the climb, four of his Sky teammates linked up and set off in a long, brave pursuit with Cavendish sat in their slipstream. They got to within 40 seconds of the bunch, but ultimately – and unsurprisingly – the race motored away from them.

What looked to be a sure thing turned out to be the wrong gamble for Team Sky.

Cavendish and company were classed among the race’s non-finishers after missing the Poggio, 10 kilometres out. But they rode on to San Remo and the team buses.

Standing his bicycle up on its back wheel, alongside lieutenant Bernhard Eisel, Cavendish used it to manoeuvre through the scrum and get onto the Sky bus.

The world champion did not speak to the waiting press outside, and Team Sky quickly set off for the airport to catch pressing flights.

Cav’s dire day
So, what happened to Cavendish?  “He didn’t have the legs,” Eisel said at the finish.

Tweeting this morning, Cavendish was at a loss: “Yesterday’s race gets filed in my worst days of my career list. Something was VERY wrong. No explanation, but I let down an incredible group.”

With the rest of the team committed behind, second choice Edvald Boasson Hagen and assigned helper Thomas Lofkvist were the only Sky men in front.

The Scandinavians missed the frenetic action over the Poggio and rolled in 25th and 30th respectively, compounding a day to forget for Sky.

“We were chasing for a long time… we had a strong team, we went here to win, we tried our best. Better luck next year,” Lofkvist said to CW.

Yet the big disappointment experienced here may give Cavendish even more motivation – and emotion – for his next goal, Ghent-Wevelgem, on March 25.

Related links
Gerrans wins Milan-San Remo

  • Sarah

    Cav is a poor climber, saw that in the TDF last year where he really struggled to keep up on some stages only just managing to stay in the race. On the flat he is truly amazing.

  • Eric

    I was favoring either Cav or Cancellara to win San-Remo, but I love upsets. Congrats to Gerrans, the dude came out of nowhere. go aussies!

  • Niblox

    A pity… but you can’t win ’em all. There will be other victories and failures for the Sky team/

  • Barry

    Once again his mouth got the better of him.
    Perhaps he should keep it shut in future until after the event.
    Agree with the comment re Cancellara.

  • Frank Green

    Nibali et al are not going to give cavendish a armchair ride to the finish, get a grip on here if anybody thought he was going to let him. Milan-san remo is going to change and cav will never win this again.How dare jon make a comment like that ? cos he’s right, the arrogance is reeking. When the classic specialists make selections on the climbs cav is not in the same league. Im sorry if the cav fans find that hard to take.

  • Spectateur

    Sky lost out to the tactics of other teams who needed to get rid of all the fast sprinters if their own man was to have any chance.
    Cav was not the only fast man to be left behind, Petacci and Farrar were just two of the others who out of the back.

  • JD

    Check out the record books and it’s clear that this is a race more often won by attackers such as Gerrans than pure sprinters such as Cavendish.

    And none of Cavendish’s main bunch sprinting rivals did particularly well either. This was always going to be a day for the attackers.

  • adam

    Higgins… good point, well made 🙂

  • Higgins

    The current world champion and TDF green jersey holder. Typical Brit.

  • dai bananas brother

    Grim viewing (24 hours in arrears) after ‘Camp Lawn Cymru!’ (Wales Grand Slam). The Sky people must have surely known Cav was not 100% and should have scratched him from the startlist. Dai’s Missus says that Derek Hopeless, or whatever is name is, should be scratched from commentating as well. At the point where he began to titter at his own joke, she hit the mute, I believe it was half-way up the Poggio, just when things were hotting up. The dog has since buried the remote control in the garden.

  • Jon

    Typical Britophobe – no idea how to use apostrophes & spouting a load of gibberish. Why not have a pop at Philippe Gilbert for crashing while you’re at it?

  • Alex

    Spot on Mike.
    Lashan – not sure you watched/read about the whole race?? Fabian did have quite a lot of team mates around him for quite a lot of the race. That in no way takes anything away from the legend.
    There will always be detractors around successful athletes and teams. I recall Eddy Merckx won this race seven times and even then somebody decided he needed a punch, I don’t think they had his nationality down as a reason to assalt the Belgian …..
    Hats off to Simon, a very clever win – playing to his strengths. Great racing! Look forward to the next Spring Classic!

  • Ant

    Lashan, do you always start a nonscical comment with something pregidous? Cavendish won in 2009, he wins near most every sprint he contests, the British have had the track cycling sewn up for years and now their winning Stage races as well.
    What nationality are you Lashan? Italian maybe? It’s not like you have a long history of ‘big talk’ before running away from things is it!! KNOB.

  • hailpantani

    Ok Lashan – check the results. Spartacus didn’t ‘do the job on his own’. He lost.

  • Patricia

    Far too thin too early in the season. I remember noting that his face looked really haggard on the Tirreno-Adriatico podium; didn’t look like Cav at all. You need some fatty reserves for the long slog of Milan-San Remo. Anyway, that’s my expert opinion!

  • mitch

    I think the pressure of all that expectation is getting to him… training isn’t the answer – it’s in his head…

  • arronski

    Cav’s got his mind on the oncoming birth of his first baby and the olympics, give him a break !

  • Baz

    Cav compared Milan san Remo to an opera in his pre-race interview – which one was it? ‘Tosca’ is tragic but the musical ‘Les Miserables’ might be more apt. Anyway, cheer up and head north for one of the less hilly classics.Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ should do it for the lad…

  • adam

    I agree.. a bad day at the office. I doubt anyone feels as s**t as he does about it either. Such has been Cav’s success that maybe we’ve come to expect rather than hope. That in itself is testiment to his career so far. He’ll bounce back.

  • Jon

    Lashan – how dare you come out with a comment like that. I don’t believe there was any chat from anybody in the Sky team beforehand other than the usual pre-race comments, maybe a few in the media bigging up Cav but I thought he handed it very well. Sometimes you have a very bad day on the bike, anybody that has ridden a bike should know that. You clearly have no idea about riding a bike or about cycling. I suggest you keep your xenophobic comments to yourself!

  • Colnago dave
  • Mike

    Pre race favorite.
    Has very bad day.
    Has no explanation.
    Makes no excuses.

  • Lashan

    Typical British! Big talk before the start of the race that they have it all planned out but cant even finish the race. Hat’s off to Spartacus doing the job on his own.