Team Sky played their cards correctly in Ghent-Wevelgem today, but had little to show for it. Mark Cavendish saw the lead group ride free and the team's other key member, Edvald Boasson Hagen, faced a rough sprint.
"The plan was to follow the first group, if Mark was not in the first group, then I should go for it," Boasson Hagen told Cycling Weekly. "I think, someone let a gap open and he lost the front group, which was a pity."
Cavendish survived two ascents of the Kemmelberg, but ahead of the final Monteberg climb he lost ground. The race strung out and someone let loose of the safety line. The gap grew from 20 seconds to over a minute and a half. He crossed the line in 58th, 2-33 minutes back from winner Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
He rolled to the bus, where press and fans waited in a scene similar to the Tour de France. Dirtied from his race around the Flemish farm roads, he explained his day.
"I just happened to be on the one wheel that loses the front, just right when we turned left off the descent of the Kemmel," Cavendish said. "It wasn't that odd to be honest that he lost the wheel, but with your head down, by the time you look up it's 30 metres and you can't really get across."
Cavendish targeted this race along with Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and Milan-San Remo this spring. He's gone 1 for 3, but he had placed himself well for today's race.
"I guess it would have been better to be further in front, but if you're top 25 over the Kemmel then you're all right. I was top 25, and I thought I was fine, but next time I'll have to be top 10."
Sky had Christian Knees with Boasson Hagen, and Mat Hayman and Ian Stannard with Cavendish. Hayman and Stannard tried to close the gap, but found it impossible with Katusha and Omega Pharma pulling hard in front.
"They were really close, but it's always really hard to come back in Ghent-Wevelgem. You see it every year," sports director, Servais Knaven told Cycling Weekly. "He [Cavendish] was really focused for this race, he was riding well. The group was right there in front, so it's frustrating for him."
Boasson Hagen, a former winner in Wevelgem, sprinted, but said there was "a lot of pushing." He placed fourth.
Boonen wins again in Ghent-Wevelgem
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