The Tour de France continues with stage 19 today, nearly three weeks since Mark Cavendish crashed and abandoned on home roads in Harrogate. His absence could have left Omega Pharma-Quick Step empty-handed, but the team came away “happy” all the same.
“Of course, yes, it’s a big loss to lose your star on day one,” team boss, Patrick Lefevere told Cycling Weekly.
“We want to win, it helps build a name for our sponsors. Even today, people still are yelling ‘Cav’ when they see our team car, which means they recognise the sponsor and its name.
“My sponsors, however, are very happy with the team’s ride, how we performed, the exposure of the team. Even without Mark Cavendish, the sponsors are happy.”
Cavendish became tangled in the closing metres of stage one into Harrogate, his mother’s hometown. Instead of winning the stage, taking his first yellow jersey and toasting with the locals, he left in an ambulance to be X-rayed. He ruptured the ligaments around the AC-joint and separated his shoulder and underwent surgery four days later in Manchester to fix his ligaments.
The stage could have spelled disaster for the team given ‘Cav’ has 25 career stage wins in the Tour and provided it the best chance to win. Omega Pharma, instead, took control of several sprint finishes for Cavendish’s helper Mark Renshaw and went on the attack. Matteo Trentin won a small bunch kick in Nancy and Tony Martin went on solo move for 60 kilometres to win in Mulhouse
“It’s beautiful to see that without the leader they are doing the same job. They wanted to show that the Tour selection that we made was the right selection,” Lefevere said.
“In the first 10 days, we were probably the most attentive team, always in the breakaways, even if there wasn’t a breakaway then doing the lead out like ‘Cav’ was there. In Nîmes, we were the only team that was able to destablise the bunch with Martin and [Jan] Bakelants.
“I’m quite proud of my team, every sprint they did, they were there. If you see that Renshaw – who in normal life can never beat Marcel Kittel and Alex Kristoff – was third, fourth and twice fifth… So the guys were working like Cavendish was there and it worked. It means the team was ready to take Mark to several victories, I’m convinced.”
Omega will have another chance on Saturday. Martin, current and three-time world champion, is a favourite to win the 54-kilometre time trial on the eve of the Tour’s finish in Paris.
Cavendish began riding on his bike again with the end of season in mind. He said that he does not know how soon he can return to competition, but he added, “I’d like to get back as soon as possible.”
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