Despite a perfect leadout from his Omega Pharma-Quickstep team, Mark Cavendish believes there is nothing he could have done to beat rival sprinter Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) at the end of today's 12th stage of the Tour de France into Tours.
Kittel pipped Cavendish to the line after coming from the British champion's wheel to take his tally of stage wins in this year's race to three.
"He was just simply faster," Cavendish told the press at the end of the stage. "I can go back and look over and over again, [but] I don't think myself or the team could have done anything different. He [Kittel] was just simply better."
Cavendish's team leadout has often left him with too much work to do in the sprint finishes of this year's Tour, and the Manxman still has just one win to his name in the race so far.
However today's defeat was a rare occasion where he was beaten in a straight drag to the line, and he could have no excuses.
"The guys were really, really incredible for me today, they stayed so calm" added Cavendish. "We went through the finish so many times before the stage, everybody knew what they had to do and it was a good duel between Omega Pharma-Quickstep and Argos-Shimano.
"Ultimately the guys went at the right time and delivered me at the right time, but I was just beaten by a better guy."
Kittel has now beaten Cavendish and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) in straight sprints in this year's Tour, giving him a strong claim to the position of best pure sprinter in the race.
"I think he'll be the next big thing," said Cavendish of the 25 year-old. "I spoke with him today and I think he's the next superstar of sprinting. You can see it in this Tour he's won three stages already now, and I can tell you that's not easy, I know from experience."
Tomorrow is likely to see the sprinters do battle once again as stage 13 of the race takes in the flat terrain from Tours to Saint Amand Montrond.
However it could be the last chance for the Tour's heavyweights to take victory before the final stage in Paris; on the immediate horizon is Saturday's lumpy ride to Lyon before Mont Ventoux, the Geant de Provence, takes centre stage on Sunday.
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