Mark Cavendish (Etixx – Quick-Step) was unable to make it a perfect ending for Britain at the 2015 Tour de France like he did in 2012, as he failed match the power of André Greipel on the final sprint into Paris on Sunday’s climax to the race.
A four-time winner of the final Tour stage to the Champs-Élysées, Cavendish had his hopes set on another win but eventually was only able to finish sixth, as this year’s most successful sprinter Greipel powered to his fourth stage win.
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Yet the Manxman remained in high spirits at the finish despite not really contesting the finale and refused to blame the illness he has been suffering with in recent days for his performance.
“We knew we were going to strong in the first week, it’s definitely the hardest tour I’ve ever done,” Cavendish told press at the finish. “We survived to try and get to here, and you can see it’s taken its toll on me a little bit. I’ve had bronchitis for the last couple of days and a fever last night.
“[I] still thought with 110km today we’d give it a shot, but actually is wasn’t really my fitness that let me down to day, it was just some more organised trains if I’m honest. I kind of just chose the wrong wheel I guess.”
Cavendish’s only stage win of this year’s race into Fougères on stage seven will still spell a relief for him, as he claimed his first win in the race since 2013. But the absence of Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) wasn’t enough to spark a renaissance for the 26-time Tour stage winner, with another German stepping forward to take up the crown of sprint king.
“Let’s be honest it’s been four times for Greipel, it’s a great run isn’t it,” Etixx sporting director Brian Holm said on Cavendish’s performance at the finish.
“It was a pure sprint and it’s no coincidence that Greipel won three stages before and he picked number four, he was simply better. So congratulations to Lotto and Greipel for a great job.”
Holm added: “I know he was a bit ill and he didn’t feel well, but that’s part of the race and a lot of riders start to feel unwell.”
The 2015 edition of the Tour was the seventh Cavendish has completed and while it may not have been the runaway personal success he may have hoped for, the former Team Sky man seemed resolved to return and do it all again in 2016, as well as expressing his delight for his former teammates and their overall success.
“It’s great see how much British support we had out here,” he said. “I’m so happy for the Sky boys, it would have been nice [for me] to finish it off here, but it’s another great Tour de France for British cycling.”
Highlights of stage 21 of the 2015 Tour de France