Mark Cavendish feeling confident after sixth in first Tour de France sprint opportunity

Manxman in contention in Bayonne in stage won by Jasper Philipsen

Mark Cavendish at the 2023 Tour de France
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Mark Cavendish said he would take heart from his performance in the first sprint opportunity on stage three of the Tour de France, where he came sixth.

After solid work from the Astana Qazaqstan lead-out train which put him in a good position coming into the finale, the Manxman finished behind a rampaging Jasper Philipsen who grabbed his first victory of this year’s edition.

Speaking to the media post-stage, Cavendish said he was “happy” with his personal performance and that of his team, despite missing out on the win.

“Yeah I'm happy with that,” he said. “Ok, obviously, we'd like to win, but I'm happy with how the boys rode, I'm happy with the speed. You see the team are up there with more dialled teams, the teams that do it day-in, day-out.

“We had a plan to get me at the front there, with 2km to go, into that u-turn, that's what the boys committed too, that's what they did perfect. So actually it was job complete there, it was just down to me trying to find the right wheels after that.”

Cavendish explained that prior to stage three, Astana had already decided that the final phase of the stage was not ideal for the Manxman and was more suited to his rivals, particularly riders with the physique of Jumbo-Visma’s Wout van Aert or other more puncheur-like sprinters.  

“I was OK. I'm happy with the speed, 500m to go, I wasn't even in the top-10, maybe 15th position. I'm happy with that… We said at the beginning that that's not the best kind of finish for me, it was more for someone like Jonathan Milan or Wout van Aert,” Cavendish added.

“I had to wait until it went up to get on top of the gear… I'm happy with that. I can take confidence for the next few days.”

Coming into the Tour, Astana acquired the services of Cavendish’s former teammate Mark Renshaw as a sprint consultant for the race. The Manxman explained that the team were already reaping the rewards of Renshaw’s precise work which enabled them to get a clearer picture of the stage finale.

Mark Cavendish at the 2023 Tour de France

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“[Mark Renshaw's homework] helped a lot. Not just in the final bit, but in the last 20 kilometres, the climbs, little kicks, knowing just how long they were, how to stay up there. Where to move up before the roundabouts, it helped an awful lot,” Cavendish said.

“Yeah, I think he [Renshaw] nailed it, and the boys nailed it for me. Luis Leon [Sanchez] and Cees [Bol] were always with it. I was quite happy to sit with Alpecin, but I always had the guys moving me up, giving me space, so I had to spend as little energy as possible. Super, super happy with that.”

Stage four between Dax and Nogaro concludes on a motor racing circuit, a finish that the Astana man explained he was more than ready for.

“We'll try tomorrow. It's a different one, I've never finished on a motor racing circuit at the Tour. It's happened in other races, but it might be a bit different at the Tour. It's new for everyone. I'm quite looking forward to it, it'll be another flat day. I think the peloton will look forward to a flatter day tomorrow. Hopefully the wind is alright too.

“I'm confident in my form, I'm confident in the team, we look forward to the next sprint opportunities.”

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Tom Thewlis

Tom is a News and Features Writer at Cycling Weekly, and previously worked in communications at Oxford Brookes University. He has reported from a wide range of races and events including the Tour de France and World Championships.