Mark Cavendish has sprinted to four stages so far in the Tour de France, more than many imagined possible, but is finding it hard going as the race enters its third week. A decision to pull the plug could come soon with his next goal in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics on the horizon.
The Dimension Data sprinter worked to deliver Edvald Boasson Hagen to the victory in Berne, Switzerland, but as he moved up to do so, the group swerved right and closed him out. It would have created an even bigger celebration for Mandela Day – one year since Steve Cummings took the South African team's first Tour win in Mende.
"I'm happy. We've won a third of the stages already, and still more to come hopefully. We missed an opportunity today, but tried our best," Cavendish told Cycling Weekly after stage 16.
He sat and rose slowly with his muscles still sore from today's effort and the last 16 stages. It is nothing new to him as he already finished six editions of the Tour.
Watch: Highlights of stage 16
Cycling Weekly understands the plan is for Cavendish to head home on Tuesday and return to the Manchester track to build for Rio. Cavendish, though, said that he must assess his level of fatigue before deciding.
"That was hard today. And yesterday, but I'll see how I recover tomorrow," Cavendish added.
"Every day someone has asked me if I'm going home in the last week. I even went for the green jersey points [on stage 16], which I don't think [I would do] if I was planning on stopping."
The race stays in Berne on Tuesday for its second of two rest days. It will be a moment for Cavendish to reflect on how far he has come in this Tour de France and what is ahead in the Omnium, three weeks after the Tour pulls in to Paris.
Before the Champs-Élysées, where Cavendish won four consecutive years from 2009 to 2012, the race covers four tough Alpine stages and the Manxman is starting to feel the heat in more ways than one.
"The heat has been a factor for the whole tour for me. Unusually, I train in Italy before the Tour, but this time I was in the velodrome in Manchester, I haven't seen the sun.
"The heat has been the biggest factor for me in this Tour. Even in the mountains, my inability to climb this year has been more a case of the heat than the actuall gradients."
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