Mark Cavendish has finished second at Grote prijs Jean-Pierre Monseré, a Belgian one-day race, and taken his best result so far since rejoining Deceuninck – Quick-Step.
The Brit came close to winning his first bike race since stage three of the 2018 Dubai Tour, finishing behind Alpecin-Fenix’s Tim Merlier in the dash for the line and proving to his critics that he still has the legs to compete, having begun his season without troubling the higher placings at the Clasica de Almeria and Le Samyn.
In the final few kilometres of Grote prijs Jean-Pierre Monseré, Cavendish was situated in the first ten positions as the bunch strung out towards the finish line, but was isolated, left to surf the wheels and without a sprint train.
His Deceuninck – Quick-Step team-mates soon regrouped, however, but heading under the flamme rouge they were nowhere to be seen.
Accelerating up the bunch as riders organised themselves for the sprint came Bert Van Lerbeghe, however, piloting Cavendish to the front as Tim Merlier began an early, well-timed sprint just as Deceuninck – Quick-Step were getting in position.
There was no catching Merlier, but Cavendish came around Timothy Dupont (Bingoal – Wallonie Bruxelles) and Rudy Barbier (DELKO) to take second.
Coming across the line, Cavendish shook his head, having come so close to taking what would have been his first win in three years.
The only other race currently on Cavendish’s calendar is Scheldeprijs, on April 7, which the Manxman has won three times in 2007, 2008 and 2011. The competition will be tougher in one month’s time, however, as Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) and Elia Viviani (Cofidis) are expected to line up, and Cavendish may instead be riding in support of team-mate Sam Bennett.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step didn’t have to wait long to go one better than second, as Mauri Vansevenant won the GP Industria & Artigianato half an hour later in Italy, the 21-year-old Belgian who previously showcased his talents at the 2020 edition of Flèche Wallonne.