Dropped with nearly 60 kilometres to go on Monday's stage three of the 2011 Vuelta a Espana, Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) battled through some of the hottest weather conditions the Vuelta has seen in years to finish 170th in a group of around 30 riders.
Temperatures soared to over 40 degrees on Monday's exposed, dry inland terrain, but the riders still averaged over 41 kilometres despite the scorching heat.
"He's fine," HTC-Highroad's Jens Zemke said, "but this heat has really taken it out of a lot of riders."
"If you look at the classification you'll see it's mainly northern Europeans who've had problems with the weather."
"A guy like Mark, who's from the Isle of Man, is used to temperatures about 20 degrees lower at this time of year."
"We're convinced he'll come through later in the race to get that stage win he wants."
Cavendish was far from being the only rider in trouble on Monday's seemingly straightforward stage: Denis Menchov (Geox) is supposed to be a major contender, but lost nearly 90 seconds and will start Tuesday's crucial stage on Sierra Nevada more than two minutes down on leading favourite Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas).
His team blamed a mechanical incident - his saddle came loose - as well as average form and slightly poor positioning for his getting dropped on the last climb of the day.
However, Geox have had a miserable start to the Vuelta in general, finishing second last in the opening team time trial, and with Menchov threatening to slide out of the running after three stages.
Others who unexpectedly lost contact on Monday's stage included Andrey Kashechkin (Astana), the 2006 Vuelta podium finisher who ended the day in the same group as Menchov, and Peter Sagan (Liquigas) who ended up over seven minutes down.
None of them fared as badly as RadioShack's Andreas Klöden, though, who lost over 12 minutes - and if such a relatively straightforward stage caused such problems, then who knows what kind of damage Tuesday's stage on Sierra Nevada will do.
Vuelta a Espana 2011: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
Vuelta a Espana 2011: Latest news
Matt Goss first rider to abandon Vuelta
Team Sky's TTT horror on troublesome course
Dan Martin confident and collected as Vuelta team leader
Pro predictions: Who will win the Vuelta?
HTC-Highroad's reservations about TTT course
Vuelta team time trial start order
Sky plans early start for Vuelta team time trial recon
Wiggins looking to minimise losses in testing Vuelta TTT
Riders voice support for Hushovd over Vuelta exclusion
Cancellara late to Vuelta after being hospitalised by bee sting
Nibali back for victory again in 2011 Vuelta
Wiggins: "I'm in a great position going into the Vuelta"
Wiggins confirmed as Sky leader for the Vuelta
Freire: It'll be tough in the Vuelta with Cavendish
Hushovd left out of Vuelta; Dan Martin to lead Garmin-Cervelo
Cavendish and Wiggins on provisional Vuelta start list
Climbers set to dominate in 2011 Vuelta
Millar on 2011 Vuelta: 'Modern-looking and very challenging"
2011 Vuelta set to return to Angliru and Basque country
Angliru back in 2011 Tour of Spain
Hushovd left out of Vuelta; Martin to lead Garmin-Cervélo
Vuelta a Espana 2011: Teams, riders, start list
Vuelta a Espana 2011: Who's riding?
Vuelta a Espana 2011 team list
Vuelta a Espana 2011
: Stage reports
Stage three: Lastras solos to stage and takes red jersey
Stage two: Sutton grabs stage win to set things right for Sky
Stage one: Leopard-Trek win opening TTT to put Fuglsang in front
Vuelta a Espana 2011: Photo galleries
By Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one photo gallery
Vuelta a Espana 2011: TV guide
Vuelta a Espana 2011: ITV4 TV schedule
Vuelta a Espana 2011: British Eurosport TV schedule
ITV to show 2011 Vuelta
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