Mark Cavendish finished in fourth place in the first stage of the Ster Elektrotoer today, but learnt some hard lessons about the responsibilities of team leadership.
T-Mobile?s British sprinter, who has already notched up five wins this year, was given an armchair ride to the finish by his team, but couldn?t finish the job.
?I feel I?ve let the team down quite badly,? he said, sounding dejected. ?The lads did a brilliant job to get it back, then Ciolek gave me the perfect lead out; we were ten back with 800m to go, I shouted at him to go, and he went straight passed everyone. Straight passed the Gerolsteiner train with me on his wheel. With 150m to go I came off his wheel and thought, ?I?ve got it.? But I just had absolutely nothing, no kick, no sprint, and Förster and Weylandt came flying passed me.
?It wasn?t like I messed up, I just wasn?t good enough, and it?s knocked my head a little bit.?
It?s unlikely his team will be quite so critical of the 22 year-old. Still suffering the affects of jetlag after a week?s racing in the USA, Cavendish flew in to Geneva on the morning of the Dutch race to become the first rider to sign the UCI?s new ?Rider?s commitment to a new cycling? declaration.
The declaration is essentially a promise by the rider that they are not involved in any doping affair, and that if they ever break their pledge they will give up a year?s salary.
?I was up at 6am, got the bus to the airport and was flying at 8am,? he said. ?I got to Geneva, waited round for a couple of hours while they had the meeting, did the press conference, then flew directly to Düsseldorf. We drove straight to the start and got there an hour before the prologue started.?
Having come through British Cycling?s system, Cavendish has always been a supporter of clean sport, but it?s rare for a rider so new to the professional scene to take such a stance.
?Bob [Stapleton] spoke to me about it, said what the proposal was, and asked if I was interested. I didn?t have to do it if I didn?t want to, but I feel strongly about cleaning up the sport.?
Cavendish?s former Olympic Academy teammate Geraint Thomas is also riding at the Elektrotoer, his last stage race before he starts the Tour de France in a little over two weeks.
A crash after 80km left the Welshman unhurt when he landed on top of two other riders, and he was soon back up and in the bunch, ?I?m definitely feeling a lot better than last week,? said Thomas. ?I had a big training block in Italy, and by the end of the week I was really swinging, but I?ve freshened up quite well now.
"I did about 32 hours in the week with a lot of climbing and some big efforts. I did quite a bit behind the bike and got some good quality work in. The form's starting to come through quite well now.
?I?ll do a few long steady rides next week, but apart from that I?ll just kick back and relax and make sure I go to the Tour fresh and ready to go. I can?t wait to get stuck in, I can?t imagine how big it?s going to be.?
STER ELEKTROTOER: STAGE ONE, SCHIJNDEL - NUTH
1 Wouter Weylandt (Bel) Quick Step 166km in 3-20-56
2 Robert Förster (Ger) Gerolsteiner
3 Stefan Van Dijck (Ned) Wiesenhof-Felt
4 Mark Cavendish (GBr) T-Mobile
5 Bram Schmitz (Ned) Van Vliet
6 Roy Sentjens (Bel) Predictor Lotto
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