After claiming his first win in three years at the Tour of Turkey in April – and winning three more stages that very week – the British sprinter did not finish the recent Ruta del Sol but returned at the weekend for a pair of one-day races in Belgium.
He did not finish Saturday’s Dwars door Het Hageland, where teammate Yves Lampaert made the podium – but he led the line at Elfstedenronde a day later and was only narrowly beaten by the in-form Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix).
“I thought I was second, but you never know, things can turn in your favour,” Cavendish said of the photo finish
“I came just too late, but Merlier is arguably the best sprinter of the moment. It is perhaps an achievement that it was photo finish and that I did not finish 10 meters behind him.”
Cavendish was separated from his lead-out man Michael Morkov heading through the final bend, choosing instead to sprint off the wheel of Bora-Hansgrohe’s Pascal Ackermann. He accelerated hard on the right-hand side of the road but Merlier held firm on the left.
“The last kilometers were really chaotic. One guy from another team tried to get me out of position, even though he wasn’t anywhere near his sprinter, and I lost Michael going into the last corner,” Cavendish explained.
“Then I saw Ackermann with [Rudiger] Selig, so I decided to use that wheel, but had to wait for Selig to jump, because otherwise I would have been in the wind. Unfortunately, it was a bit late.”
Cavendish also praised his teammates for helping set up the opportunity to sprint, singling out 21-year-old Remco Evenepoel, who made his comeback after abandoning the Giro d’Italia last month.
“It was an absolute dream to be with these guys today, they controlled the race and were perfect. I even had the honour of having Remco working for me at the front. Even at my age, it’s something I can be proud of. All this motivated me to give everything today.”
Cavendish will not race the Tour de France later this month, with team boss Patrick Lefevere saying the 30-time stage winner is still not ready. However, he hinted that his future could extend into 2022.
“I’ve been in the top-four 12 times this season and I didn’t expect that at my age. It’s going better than anyone expected,” Cavendish said.
“I’ll see Patrick soon, and then we’ll see what happens to me in the short or long term.”