Mark Cavendish got a kiss from girlfriend Melissa and consolation from coach Rod Ellingworth at the finish of stage three in Nantes but the disappointment after missing out on a chance of stage victory was still easy to see on his face.
Cavendish and his Columbia team did everything they could to chase the four-rider break that went away in the first kilometre of the 208km stage but when other teams refused to fully share the workload and the gap was still over four minutes with just 30km to go, Columbia rightly sat up and the break stayed away.
Cavendish had made the stage his big objective of this year?s Tour de France but finished tenth 2-03 behind winner Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis). France took a double as Romain Feillu (Agritubel) finished third and pulled on the yellow jersey.
Cavendish started the sprint for fifth place a little too far back and cruised home, helping team mate Kim Kirchen retain the green jersey. Robbie McEwen (Silence) won the sprint and so scored a few points towards his green jersey challenge.
?We were the best team and we worked, but no other teams were really interested. At the end of the day I?ve lost out,? Cavendish said.
?It?s a little disappointing but at the end of the day it didn?t work out, but it?s not as if anything went wrong, it just didn?t work out. The team rode well and stayed together as a group today and we had everyone on the front, it was just a pity it didn?t end in a sprint.?
?We put in the work but not many other teams did. CSC always play the gambling game and wait for some one else to work. They did that today but it didn?t pay off for them, while Rabobank even ended losing time when Menchov crashed. At the end of the day we?re not big losers because we had all our big guys in the front group.?
LEARNING THE SECRETS OF TOUR DE FRANCE SPRINTING
Rod Ellingworth admitted he had hoped Cavendish would contest the sprint for fifth place as if he was going for the win but the 23 year-old from the Isle of Man was more interested in avoid crashes and the dangers of the hectic Tour de France sprints.
?It was very dangerous, really dangerous. It went really narrow and there were a few guys swinging around but that?s the Tour. I was a little bit too far back?? Cavendish admitted.
Cavendish is quickly learning about the subtle but important differences between Tour de France sprints and sprint finishes in other races. Monday?s stage was a tough day in the saddle because of the rolling roads, side winds and rain but he knows how to ride in those conditions.
?In the Giro everybody leaves the sprinters too it, the guys who think they can sprint are pretty useless, but here you?ve got everybody trying to stay at the front. That makes it a bit more hectic,? he said.
?The wind?s no problem for me because I always manage to find the right wheel of someone who doesn?t quite sit in the gutter, I always get a bit of a covering.”
Cavendish will look to recover as much as possible during Tuesday?s 29.5km individual time trial in Cholet and then go for his first ever Tour de France stage win on Wednesday in Chateauroux.
?That?s the next chance for me,? he said, clearly focused on making sure a chance of a stage win does not escape his grasp again.
|TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE REPORTS|
|TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: NEWS|
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|TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: PHOTOS|
|TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: GUIDE|