Mark Cavendish spoke of how “proud” he was of his Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl colleagues despite their forlorn chase on Stage 5 at the Giro d’Italia.
Cavendish was distanced on the Cat. 2 Portella Mandrazzi climb midway through Wednesday’s run from Catania to Messina along with Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal).
The Manx Missile and five team-mates gamely tried to overturn a three-minute gap on the peloton but eventually abandoned the chase with 50km remaining.
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Meanwhile, Demare managed to latch back on and profited from a superb lead-out to take a commanding sprint win ahead of Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Israel-Premier Tech).
But Cavendish insisted that he never expected to be in the bunch sprint, instead calling it a “bonus” that did not transpire.
“What can you do? You’ve just got to try,” said Cavendish before boarding a ferry across the Strait of Messina to the Italian mainland.
“We were like 30 seconds behind Groupama-FDJ and Caleb was behind us. Ironically, if all of us were together we would probably get back.
“It’s just how it is. We had to give everything, the boys did everything, I’m so proud. In the end it’s alright, we tried.”
He added: “You’re always disappointed [at not winning] but we knew that was going to happen today. It was a bonus if we could sprint today. But we had to try. We’ll try again.”
Cavendish, who has 16 wins at the Giro to his name, will have a chance to atone on Thursday with a flatter run from Palmi to Scalea on the menu on the Italian mainland. He should also have sprint opportunities on Stages 11, 13 and 18.
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'It's fuel for tomorrow' - McEwen
Cavendish's disappointing outing will be "fuel" ahead of Stage 6, according to 12-time Giro stage winner and Eurosport cycling expert Robbie McEwen.
“They [Quick-Step] didn’t make any mistakes, the others did what they needed to do and it worked out in their favour," said McEwen on The Breakaway.
"Ironically, the sprinters were all separated and had they all been together they would have got back together, but that’s not the way it works. He just resigned himself to the fact that sometimes that’s going to happen. He knows there’s another chance. It’s fuel for tomorrow."
Cavendish, who won Stage 3 in Hungary, is looking to force his way into Quick-Step's plans for the Tour de France, although Fabio Jakobsen is expected to be their preferred option.
“He’ll be slightly frustrated obviously but the whole team and Cavendish knew that the plan of other teams might well be to try and drop him over the climb," added Dan Lloyd.
"They did everything they possibly could to try and get themselves back into the game. It didn’t work out. They now need to get to the mainland and focus on tomorrow because he’s got another big opportunity there.
He continued: “Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl couldn’t have done anymore than they did really. They surrounded Cavendish with every rider except for [Davide] Ballerini.
"They did their best on the descent to chase, they did their best on the flat to chase but when you’re up against multiple teams it was always going to be harder to get back on.”
‘He knows there’s another chance’ – McEwen on Cavendish’s Giro hopes
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Stream the Giro d'Italia live and on-demand on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk.
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