Cavendish, team-mate Mark Renshaw, and Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) all finished well outside the time limit on stage 11 of the Tour de France. The Manxman was the last rider to cross the line more than 30 minutes outside the time cut, which had been extended in recognition of the difficulty of the stage.
The captain of the South African team declined to speak to press at the finish but his team manager Ryder told Cycling Weekly that Cavendish had been extremely disappointed when he reached the team’s hotel, just a short ride away.
“He’s bitterly disappointed. Riders need their time and Cav is a super-experienced guy who has seen this movie before sadly,” Ryder said.
He added that although Cavendish’s best place on a stage of the Tour had been eighth on stage eight, and he scraped through the time cut yesterday with seconds to spare, the team and Cavendish had earlier been optimistic that he could make it through the mountain stages and challenge for wins later in the race.
“We were focusing on Friday as another opportunity he was very optimistic about that,” Ryder said. “Stage races are hard and after the rest day you never know how you’ll feel. He suffered yesterday on the first climb and then felt alright. Today he was on the rollers before the start, he was prepared for a big fight. Maybe the fight was just too big today… He’s gutted.”
Cavendish has had a torrid couple of years beset by illness and injury. Last year he had glandular fever for the first half of the season before crashing out of the Tour de France and breaking his collarbone. This season he crashed out of the Abu Dhabi Tour and Milan-San Remo.
“We are a team that believes in the dreams of individuals and Mark [Renshaw] and Mark [Cavendish] – but particularly Cav – have worked hard but the sport is brutal it’s tough,” Ryder continued. “Having not ridden a complete Grand Tour since 2015 it’s really hard. Especially with the incidents and illnesses it’s too hard to keep coming back, when you don’t have a full season.”
Watch: Tour de France stage 11 highlights
Ryder went on to praise his charge’s commitment this season, pointing out that Cavendish had missed out on being around his son Casper who was born in March because he was preparing for the Tour.
He said there was still a reason to believe they could be successful in the Tour. “We picked ourselves up last year. Then we lost Cav on stage four and we ended up winning a stage and were on the podium several times. We are an opportunistic team and we’ll take our chances, it wasn’t the plan but we’ll give it a full go.”
The prospect of sprinters being thrown out of the race had been a topic of conversation for teams since the route was announced as short mountain stages are always difficult for the fast men to ride within the time cut.
At the finish Renshaw, who will also be kicked out of the race for missing the time cut, was asked if he felt emotional at having to leave the Tour.
“No. That’s what the Tour de France wanted the stage to be like. I don’t know who else is out but they knew what was coming,” he said. “It’s too hard for the sprinters and too hard for me.
“On a short stage like that its every man for himself. I was with Dylan Groenwegen for a long time but I couldn’t follow on the second to last climb and that was it.”