Mark Cavendish said it was an “exciting and nervous feeling” to be back in action in the Middle East.
Cavendish made his debut in Bahrain-McLaren colours at the Saudi Tour, where his team were the dominant force during a tense day of crosswind racing.
Despite a stand-out performance from his new squad, Bahrain-McLaren narrowly missed stage victory with Heinrich Haussler, while Cavendish finished 36th after a sharp finishing climb.
Speaking after the stage, Cavendish said: “It was a hard stage. With crosswinds it’s always going to be a bit nervous. Add to that it’s the first race of the season, you don’t really know where you’re at.
“It was quite an exciting and nervous feeling at the beginning.”
The opening stage of the inaugural Saudi Tour was a challenging run from the capital to nearby Jaww, which saw plenty of time gaps by the finish after crosswinds sparked echelon racing.
Haussler made it into a late break that almost denied the peloton, but he was caught by stage winner Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) and had to settle for second.
Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic) sprinted to third.
Cavendish added: “We rode to the plan and I’m proud we dictated how the race went today. That was something special.
“Obviously disappointed just to miss out on the win, but at the end of the day Rui Costa is not a rider you’re going to be upset to be caught by, he’s an ex-world champion and won countless races.
“Heinrich was brilliant, the team was brilliant, and we can take so many positives from today.”
The race continues on Wednesday (February 5) with stage two, a 182km race from Sadus Castle to Riyadh.
Rui Costa leads the race by one second over Haussler.
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1