Having been suffering from glandular fever Cavendish had not raced since Milan-San Remo, but looked in a good position going into the final few kilometres of the opening 159.4km stage from Koper to Kocevje.
However Cavendish a lead-out man Mark Renshaw got detached from the rest of the team, meaning they had to put in big efforts join back up with the rest of the Dimension Data train, and were then positioned too far back to contest the sprint.
"Unfortunately, we lost each other a little bit with five kilometres to go," explained Bernard Eisel. "I blame myself as I went too early, which caused Cavendish and Renshaw to make a big effort in order to get back up to us"
"They came around the last corner in 10th-12th position and that was just too far down to win. However, there is still another chance for a sprint stage and it was really good to see Cavendish motivated."
In contrast with Dimension Data, Bora-Hansgrohe pulled off a textbook lead-out effort, putting Bennett in a perfect position going into the final 200m.
With the finish line in his sight, Bennett was able to hold off the challenges of Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) and Luka Mezgec (Orica-Scott) to win the stage, while Cavendish freewheeled across the line in 10th.
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