HTC-Columbia’s Mark Cavendish took on the role of team helper for the first stage of his debut race of the 2010 season, the Tour of Andalusia in Spain.
“He did really well,” HTC-Columbia manager Rolf Aldag told Cycling Weekly. “Mark was feeling so strong that he spent most of the day as team helper, working for his team-mates Mick [Rogers] and Maxime [Monfort] who are our overall contenders here.”
Cavendish’s season debut had been delayed because of dental problems earlier in the year. However, the Manxman’s strong team-work on stage one of Andalusia – which was run off in torrential rain, a half-gale and near-freezing temperatures – indicates he is already in good shape.
Cavendish eased back on the final seven kilometre climb, a viciously steep ascent to the sanctuary of La Guardia de Jaen, and finished 86th, eight minutes down on lone winner Sergio Pardilla (Carmiooro).
The bunch regrouped at the foot of the climb, pulling back a four-man break thanks to hard work by Sky and HTC-Columbia before Rabobank upped the pace at the foot of the climb.
Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) was one of the first riders to go clear, but Pardilla overtook the German with a couple of kilometres left to race.
Great Britain’s two other riders, Steve Cummings (Sky) finished 20th, 1-14 down, whilst Bradley Wiggins (Sky) was 71st.
After Sunday’s brutally hilly stage, Monday’s stage two from Otura to Cordoba is much flatter, and could well end with a bunch sprint.