There cannot be many more frustrating sights for a sprinter than watching the race go up the road on a day that is likely to finish in a bunch gallop.
That's the position that Mark Cavendish found himself in on stage five of the Giro d'Italia, as the collective work of Alpecin-Fenix, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert and Israel-Premier Tech put the fast man under pressure on the day's only categorised climb.
The Portella Mandrazzi was perfectly positioned to make the day a hard one, but still ensure a bunch sprint would occur in Messina. However, it was to be without two of the pelotons fastest sprinters, in Cavendish and Caleb Ewan.
The three previously-mentioned teams knew they would have more chance of winning stage five with Mathieu van der Poel, Biniam Girmay, and Giacomo Nizzolo respectively if they got rid of some of their rivals. For a while it even looked like they would get rid of Arnaud Démare, who went on to win, but he did manage to get back on.
Despite the hard work of his Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team, six of whom dropped back to try and pace Cavendish back to the bunch, it was not to be on Wednesday.
While the gap was only a couple of minutes over the top of the crucial climb, they could not make the jump to the peloton as the pace was kept high on the descent and the flat road after. The Manxman eventually came into the finish 11:57 behind Démare, who proved himself to be the best of the remaining sprinters.
It meant that the Quick-Step rider was unable to have a go at the second opportunity for the fast men, but he will have another go on Thursday, that is for sure.
After the finish, he appeared to be quite sanguine about the whole thing, while perhaps thinking very carefully about what he said.
"What can you do? You’ve just got to try," Cavendish said. "It’s like different situations, if they happen, you probably come back. For instance, we were 30 seconds behind FDJ [Démare's team], and Caleb was behind us. Ironically, if all of us were together we would probably get back.
"Barrages are different, you have a better chance of getting back on. You’ve just to give everything, the boys gave everything, I’m so proud of them so proud. In the end, what can you do. It’s alright, we tried."
One gets the sense it's never alright to miss out on a chance, on a win, for someone as fiercely competitive as Cavendish, but he is too professional to show too much anguish at the situation. It is just bike racing after all.
"You’re always disappointed," he said. "But we knew that was going to happen today, it was a bonus to sprint today, but we had to try. We’ll try again."
Try again Quick-Step will, starting with Thursday's slightly easier stage to Scalea, on the Italian mainland.
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