Mark Cavendish felt he ‘bottled it’ as Rick Zabel sprints to stage victory

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Mark Cavendish admitted he “bottled it” as a chance for a much-needed win passed him by in the Tour de Yorkshire on Friday.

As Rick Zabel celebrated victory on stage two, Cavendish rolled over the line in 18th place after sitting up in the final few metres.

The Team Dimension Data rider looked well placed behind team-mates Bernie Eisel and Mark Renshaw as the peloton barrelled into Bedale, but a moment’s hesitation proved costly as he was swept up by moves from behind.

“I bottled it a little bit,” Cavendish said. “Simple as. Obviously we had Bernie and Renshaw so I was quite excited. But Bernie went a little bit early and I was like, ‘s***’.”

Cavendish tried to drop back and follow the move of Great Britain’s Dan McLay, but found himself swallowed up at the end of the 132km stage from Barnsley.

“I tried to drop back a couple of wheels,” he said. “I thought ‘OK, Dan McLay. I’ll get on his wheel. Perfect. He’ll go.’ But he kind of didn’t go.

“And I just didn’t react. I kind of just hesitated. Once one, two people come around, phwoah, I can’t do that s*** any more.”

It is now nearly 15 months since Cavendish’s last victory, on stage three of last year’s Dubai Tour, with the Manxman having endured almost two years wrecked by illness and injury while battling the Epstein-Barr virus.

And Cavendish admitted it was a concern he was not getting results  – something he knows cannot continue.

“I felt good today actually,” he said. “I felt good yesterday. Obviously it would be nice to put that into a result. Anyone can feel good when they finish wherever I did… 20th?

“The more I don’t sprint the harder it is to get that instinct back. And then the longer you don’t get that instinct back, the less you sprint. It kind of goes like that.”

While Cavendish was left frustrated, Zabel made sure Katusha-Alpecin did not miss the absent Marcel Kittel as he stormed to victory with a long sprint.

Kittel, Cavendish’s rival in the Tour de France over recent years, withdrew on the eve of the race but his recent form suggests he would never have been able to match the power and pace of Zabel.

“I know I can do a long sprint so I thought, ‘OK, I just go out and if someone comes over me at least I tried’,” the German said. “I was so afraid for the last 50 metres, I’m not a guy who wins often. I thought maybe today. It was such a relief when I crossed the line first.”

Roompot-Charles’ Boy Van Poppel was second a day after team-mate Jesper Asselman won the opening stage, while Chris Lawless of Team Ineos was third.

A six-man breakaway was caught with a little over 10 kilometres to go and a handful of counter-attacks failed, setting up the bunch sprint.

The result means that Asselman retains the overall race lead but now just by one second from Zabel, with Van Poppel a further four seconds back.

However, the general classification standings are expected to receive a shake-up on Saturday’s much tougher 132km stage from Bridlington to Scarborough, which features 1,850m of climbing.

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