Mark Cavendish finished Paris-Roubaix on Sunday for the first time and placed 30th, but he left the famous velodrome in northern France wishing he could have done more to help Dimension Data teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen.
Boasson Hagen slugged it out with the race favourites Tom Boonen (Etixx–Quick-Step), Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Ian Stannard (Sky), but finished fifth when Mathew Hayman (Orica-GreenEDGE) surprised them all.
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Cavendish coughed from the dust, his hands showed blisters and he said that he had “sore balls” but wanted to do more.
“I wasn’t on early duty and we missed a group of 20, so I did the biggest watts of the race to get over to that. 1400 watts to get over to that. Two big sprints, and I thought, ‘I’m going to pay for this later.’ But we had to be represented in that move,” Cavendish told Cycling Weekly.
“It’s a hard race. It’s my second time, the first time I finished it, and I wish I could’ve done more for Edvald, but I was on the wrong side of the crash when the race split. The road was blocked.”
Cavendish sat inside his white team bus after a shower. “I just watched the final now,” he said.
“I’m super happy for Edvald. He did really well. That’s our best result in the Classics. I knew that he’d be up there. He was motivated. There’s some of the biggest riders in this race, so to be slugging it out with them.”
Like race favourites Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo), the Manxman braked to avoid the Quérénaing sector crash of Alexander Porsev (Katusha) at 115km to race and saw the winning move ride clear.
Watch: Paris-Roubaix 2016 highlights
He remained with Sagan, avoided crashing and placed as Great Britain’s third best behind Stannard in third and Luke Rowe (Team Sky) in 14th. He looked at his hands again, he said he would never race without gloves like Boonen. The race was “sketchy” as he would have expected the ‘Hell of the North’ to be.
“I had a puncture on the road section, but the sketchiest point was when Cancellara and Terpstra crashed in the mud,” Cavendish added.
‘The cars stopped on the right, which forced us coming from behind to go on the mud. The guys in front of me slammed on, I ended up on my front wheel on the banking of the cobbles, on mud. I was on my front wheel. How I kept upright, I don’t know,” he added.
“I always had a good appreciation for this race. I grew up watching it. I wanted to ride it for a long time. I’ve already had appreciation and respect for the guys who slug it out.”
Sports director Roger Hammond said that Cavendish can return again and fight for the win. Cavendish said that he remains unsure.