Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) secured his best result in years with second place in the Grote prijs Jean – Pierre Monseré. The former road world champion was caught out when Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) launched a long-range sprint with around 150m to go, but the 35-year-old had enough speed to hold off the rest of the peloton and secure a spot on the podium. Merlier would take the win in Roeselare.
Cavendish moved to Deceuninck-QuickStep in the winter after a difficult year at Bahrain McLaren that saw him miss out on Tour de France selection for the second year running, and his sprint chances limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It looked as though his career in the WorldTour was almost over but Patrick Lefevere’s team offered him a one-year contract and the chance to resurrect his life as a professional cyclist as part of a team on which he enjoyed huge success between 2013 and 2015.
Cavendish’s road career has been in decline in recent years, not least due to a virus that was first diagnosed on 2017 and wrecked several seasons. His last top-three result before Sunday came on a stage of the Tour of Turkey back in April 2019, while his last win was on stage 3 of the Abu Dhabi Tour in 2018.
Back in January of this year, the 30-time Tour de France stage winner told the press that he still felt competitive and that he was driven to rediscover his success on the bike.
“I’m a realist. I’m not looking to hang on to something or try to finish my career as I want to in a fairytale way. I just know I’m still good,” he said during the Belgian team’s virtual media day in Spain. “If I thought I wanted to go and win six stages at the Tour de France, I’m in fairytale land and it makes it even less likely if you come to the strongest team in the world who have dominated.”
Sunday’s result was backed up by a strong leadout from Patrick Lefevere’s team with Deceuninck-QuickStep chasing down several key breaks in the second half of the race.
The race was Cavendish’s third outing in the team’s colours after he raced Clasica de Almeria and Le Samyn earlier this spring. His next scheduled race, at this point, is Scheldeprijs – a race he has won three times in his career.
More to come…