LIDO DI CAMAIORE, Italy (VN) — The Tirreno-Adriatico race jury made the tough call to cut sprint great Mark Cavendish after he crashed in Wednesday’s opening stage, a team time trial along Tuscany’s coast.
Team Dimension Data powered ahead without Cavendish, winner of 30 Tour de France stages, to close the stage 18th behind stage winner BMC Racing.
Cavendish finished 7:18 minutes behind BMC with its winning time of 22:19 over 21.5 kilometers. That was too far back, nearly two minutes over the 25 percent time cut established in advance for the stage 1 team time trial and the stage 7 individual time trial.
“We are just on a run aren’t we?” the team’s sports director, Roger Hammond, told VeloNews. “My mom always used to say bad things come in three. We’ve had three now, so let’s just hope that they are out of the way.”
Cavendish fell last year after colliding with Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in stage four of the Tour de France and abandoned with a broken right shoulder blade. Today marked his first race back, since February 21, after falling in the neutral roll out section of stage 1 of the Abu Dhabi Tour due to the race director’s car braking.
Cavendish started off with a bang after winning stage 3 in the Dubai Tour and continuing to the Tour of Oman before his Abu Dhabi Tour crash.
Tirreno-Adriatico was set to be his lead-up to Milano-Sanremo, which he won in 2009. The injuries he sustained in the crash leave his Sanremo bid up in the air. Even if he is okay after the crash, he would enter the monument without much race preparation.
Cavendish rolled over the finish line in Lido di Camaiore with his right side bloody from the fall during the 21.5-kilometer stage. His face and legs showed the damage.
Already in the Abu Dhabi Tour crash, he suffered a concussion and whiplash. Wednesday, he appeared to fall on his head again.
“[He rides low on his time trial bike], so if you go down, you go on your head, and of course, that’s not too cool,” performance director Rolf Aldag said.
“I’m not really sure [how it happened], either he hit a hole or he hit his back wheel, but it’s not really relevant, he went down and now, the thing is it’s up to the doctors to examine him and come up with a diagnosis.
“The others got around him. It went so quick, we have it on camera, we will see it and analyze it, but it doesn’t matter, right now it’s up to the doctors because the fact is that he went down really hard.”
“It was a big crash, a really big crash,” Hammond said. “Team time trial crashes are never great anyway, by definition they are going very fast.”
The UCI race rules allow the jury permit a rider to continue under “exceptional circumstances, confirmed accidents or incidents.” In that case, they can push the time limit up to 25%, but since this stage already had a 25% limit the jury had no space to play with even if it wanted to.
Cavendish went to a nearby clinic in Lido di Camaiore for check after his six team-mates rode back to the hotel. It is unclear, even if he were not out of the time limit, if he could have continued in the Tirreno-Adriatico.