The 30-year-old withdrew from the 173.9km race, which compatriot Peter Kennaugh (Sky) won, with a lap to go having aided the newly minted WorldTour outfit that fell just short of its podium aim.
Cavendish was uncertain of his road race form leading into the event with track commitments, including the UCI World Cup in Hong Kong earlier this month, occupying his time.
“I had a heart rate monitor on just to see where I’m at and I actually had a quite high heart rate around the circuit. To be fair, I didn’t do any worse than I imagined and I didn’t do any better than I imagined. With how hard the race was I’m disappointed not to finish but I’m not heartbroken about my form,” he said.
The 2011 road world champion was gracious during the race, the punchy course for which comprised a large out and back loop incorporating the Surf Coast and a smaller finishing circuit in Geelong. When it became clear the undulating terrain was too much the Manxman was seen on the broadcast ferrying bidons to teammates.
“That’s actually what cooked me in the end, was going back for bottles and the race went on,” he mused.
“I was always going to try and stay up there anyway, on the big circuit, and keep the lads out of the wind. If it was hard they were alright to go, if it was easier on the circuit then I could still be there anyway.”
Nathan Haas was the team’s best placed rider finishing sixth in a 19-man group that could not catch Kennaugh.
Cavendish will continue his season at the Dubai Tour and Tour of Qatar in February with stronger road legs having marked a productive two-week training block in Victoria, Australia this month.