Mark Cavendish ‘excited and nervous’ to be back in action

The British sprinter made his debut in Bahrain-McLaren colours in the Middle East

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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.

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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.

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.