Mark Cavendish has suffered a puncture wound to his leg after a "big impact" crash on stage two of the inaugural Saudi Tour.
The Manx sprinter went down after 70km and needed assistance at the medical car but was soon back in the peloton, with Bahrain-McLaren marshalling the peloton for much of the final hour of racing.
As they headed towards the finish line in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, however, Cavendish was sitting at the back of the pack, having handed sprinting duties over to team-mate Phil Bauhaus, with Bahrain McLaren manager Rod Ellingworth saying Cavendish told the team he didn't have the power to contest the win himself.
"I think [the crash] was one of those moments where you think not a lot is happening but it was going pretty quick, I'm not sure exactly what happened," Ellingworth told Cycling Weekly, "but I think Cav actually stopped [before the initial crash] but then got hit behind by a few people and that's what sent him over the top and landing on bikes.
"Then people started landing on top of him so he sort of got a puncture wound - looks like a chain-ring got him - to his leg. And I think it was just that impact, quite a big impact, and he called it quite early that we'd sprint for Bauhaus. He just didn't feel like he was getting the power."
Bauhaus then delivered Bahrain-McLaren's second consecutive second place on the stage, with Niccolò Bonifazio taking the win for Total Direct Energie. Heinrich Haussler was the runner-up on stage one and remains second on GC, one second behind race leader Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates).
More encouraging for Ellingworth, however, is that he thinks Cavendish is coming back to his best.
The crash early on in stage two was a departure from the 34-year-old's opening stage of the Middle Eastern race. Getting himself in the front group after the crosswinds split the peloton, the former world champion proceeded to take the race to his rivals. If the finish had had a bit less of a kick in the final few hundred metres, he would have fared better than his 34th place suggests.
"We were pretty happy for him yesterday. Just that he was in the front group, it felt like he was racing again for the first time in a while," Ellingworth said. "Yeah [today] is a shame but he's alright, that's the main thing you know, there were a couple of nasty falls at the end and you just never know."
The Saudi Tour is Cavendish's first of the season and first for his new employers, and by all accounts the team are gelling well and their star sprinter's confidence is back.
"The main thing for Mark is he's enjoying it. He's in a great group, the lads around him are really good and they've got a really good atmosphere between them and I think they're enjoying what they're doing.
"That's something which I don't think he's had for a while, you know, he's laughing and joking at the dinner table and the main thing is he's in good health."
While Cavendish and his younger room-mate, 20-year-old Brit Fred Wright, have been enjoying playing cards with the rest of the squad in the hotel lobby in the evenings, more encouraging is that Ellingworth says there are no concerns about the Manxmna's sprinting capability and that his power is where it should be.
"There's nothing of major concern at all. I think it's easy to say 'you've got to start winning again' but considering the illness he's had and just that time off - he's never really had a lot of consistent racing certainly for the last year - and that takes its time. But he's all right. He's doing well."
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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