Mark Cavendish has described how 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) tried to help him win a stage of this year's race after he'd found himself separated from his Dimension Data team-mates.
Cavendish, in an emotive column in the Telegraph (opens in new tab) paying tribute to his friend Thomas, said that the act exemplified "just what a good mate he is, and how selfless and loyal" he is.
Thomas sealed overall victory at the Tour de France on Sunday in Paris on the final stage, after a dominant performance throughout the three weeks that saw him beat Giro d'Italia winner Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) to second and four-time Tour winner and team-mate Chris Froome into third.
Thirty-time stage winner Cavendish has known the Welshman since they were teenagers, racing and living together in Manchester during their time at the British Cycling academy. The pair also rode on the road together for T-Mobile and for Team Sky during Cavendish's one year with the squad in 2012.
Cavendish described how towards the end of stage one from Noirmoutier-en-l'Île to Fontenay-le-Comte he found himself in some trouble and falling out of contention for the stage, but was immediately offered a helping hand from his old friend.
"It was a sprint stage so it was one I was targeting," Cavendish wrote.
"But with around six or seven kilometres remaining I got separated from my team-mates and ended up on the outside of the group, in the wind. I was never going to get back up on my own. Then all of a sudden I hear a voice. 'Cav!' I look right and it’s G. He was like: 'Come on mate, I’ll get you back up there.'
"Afterwards I messaged him and said: 'Listen mate, thank you so much, but don’t be wasting your energy on me. Keep everything for these three weeks. You can do this.' But that’s G. His reply was: 'I will always help if I can.' He is selfless to a fault."
Manxman Cavendish struggled in this year's Tour after a season blighted by crashes. He was unable to feature in the sprint stages he rode in, before missing the time cut on the stage 11 summit finish to La Rosière, which was won by Thomas and propelled him into yellow.
Cavendish said it was "emotional" to see Thomas move into the overall lead while he faced leaving the Tour, but also praised current Team Sky performance manager Rod Ellingworth for waiting for him as he crossed the finish line alone, over an hour after Thomas had won.
Ellingworth had been the coach that looked after the pair and other riders during their early days at the British Cycling academy and had been instrumental in helping Cavendish to his World Championship win in 2011. Cavendish says Ellingworth had instilled a "don't give up" mentality in the academy riders, which is why he refused to abandon the Tour during the stage.
"OK, there was talent, but I think more than the talent, it was an attitude that he instilled in us. You don’t give up. You don’t leave your mates," Cavendish wrote.
"It’s why it was so emotional for me when I abandoned this Tour after stage 11. G won and moved into yellow and I missed the time cut.
"Rod, though, waited for me near the finish, rather than be with his rider who had just taken the lead of the Tour. He truly cares for all us lads and I can’t put into words how much I appreciated him being there for me at that moment."
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