The Manxman won the 2011 worlds in Copenhagen. He followed team-mate Adam Blythe’s work and tried to match Sagan’s surge up the right barriers. However, he had to re-accelerate to pass Australian Michael Matthews.
Slovakian Peter Sagan won his second consecutive title.
“I lost gold, instead of winning silver,” Cavendish said. “If it was physical, it’s one thing, but with the speed I had, and the power I had in my legs, that’s going to eat at me for a long time.”
Cavendish readied for the final sprint after 257.5 kilometres through the desert and around Doha’s artificial Pearl Island. Blythe positioned him so that the Tour de France’s most successful sprinter could do his thing.
“I wanted to follow Peter [Sagan],” Cavendish added.
“I got boxed in, it’s stupid — I never got boxed in. I had to stop pedaling and come from the other side. At that point it was too late.”
Belgian Tom Boonen, the 2005 champion, ploughed through the middle and finished third. Sagan, last year’s winner in Richmond, squeezed by Italian Giacomo Nizzolo. Cavendish navigated around his other rivals on the left.
“I’m disappointed,” he said. “The Belgians rode good, the Italians rode good just to keep the Germans away. Adam Blythe rode well. I’m pretty disappointed. I know I won silver and I should be happy with that, but I should have won this race.”
Cavendish’s team-mates – including Ian Stannard, Ben Swift and Geraint Thomas – helped break the race into echelons and smaller groups after the turn-around point 75 kilometres into the race. When he had a moment to look around, he saw Adam Blythe and Luke Rowe with him.
“I was lucky to have Luke Rowe. I sat on his wheel,” said Cavendish of the critical desert road stretch north and back south to Doha to start the race.
“The team took control into the head wind. We had three of us there, which was good. Unfortunately, Luke had a puncture.”
Great Britain took the back seat in the lead group after the race split due to its numerical disadvantage. Sagan too was limited, only starting the race with two team-mates.
Cavendish bitterly takes home another silver medal. In the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, he lost the Omnium to Italian Elia Viviani.
“I told Adam [Blythe] to come with a few hundred metres to go and when he came alongside, it spread everyone and everyone jumped and I had nowhere to go,” Cavendish said.
“The hard thing was losing Luke Rowe to a puncture which would have given us three in the front and he would have been valuable at the end. I am just going to have to settle for another second this year.”