Mark Cavendish said his team “committed against the odds” put to him into the lead of the Coppi e Bartali stage race in Italy.
The British sprinter narrowly missed out in the opening sprint stage on day one, finishing second behind Jakub Mareczko (Vini Zabú), before the team time trial in the afternoon for stage 1b.
While Cavendish’s Deceuninck – Quick-Step squad narrowly missed out on victory once again in the TTT, but the Belgian squad did enough to put their sprinter into the overall lead.
Speaking after the finish of the TTT, Cavendish said: “Two podiums in a day and the leader’s jersey here, it’s not too bad.
“Though we just missed the wins, I am extremely proud of our five-man group here. The lads looked after me in the morning and I was disappointed not to repay their hard work with a victory.
“But then, in the afternoon, we committed against the odds in the team time trial. I couldn’t be happier to at least get to lead the race after day one, especially as it’s the first time in four years that I lead a stage race. Now some hilly stages await and we’re motivated to work hard for our GC guys”
After Cavendish finished second in the bunch sprint on stage 1a in Gatteo, Deceuninck – Quick-Step then went third fastest in the TTT, just two seconds slower than stage winners Israel Start-Up Nation.
Heading into stage two, Cavendish leads the race just two seconds ahead of fellow Brit Alex Dowsett (Israel Start-Up Nation).
Deceuninck – Quick-Step is competing in Italy with just five riders, compared to the seven riders of most other teams.
While Cavendish is unlikely to defend the jersey on stage two, a tough climbing day with an uphill finish, the 35-year-old is relishing his first leader’s jersey since the 2017 Abu Dhabi Tour, where he won the opening stage.