Mark Cavendish’s Tour de France ambitions hindered by early setbacks

Mark Cavendish’s bid to secure a record-breaking 35th Tour de France stage victory hit a stumbling block on the first stage, where the Astana rider encountered significant challenges due to health issues. The British cyclist, aiming to surpass Eddy Merckx’s longstanding record, faced a gruelling start on the punishing Italian roads.

During the 206-kilometre route from Florence to Rimini, which featured demanding climbs and scorching temperatures reaching 36 degrees Celsius, Cavendish struggled from the outset. He fell behind early on the Col de Valico Tre Faggi ascent, a second-category climb, visibly affected by heat and gastrointestinal distress.

Reports from the scene described Cavendish vomiting multiple times while pedalling, a distressing sight for his team and fans alike. His Astana Qazaqstan teammates rallied around him, offering support and attempting to alleviate his discomfort with cooling measures and adjustments to his nutrition strategy.

According to Sporza, Cavendish, known for his sprinting victories, had to forego energy gels and bars after failing to keep them down, suggesting his troubles stemmed from an upset stomach rather than solely heat-related issues.

In a statement to Eurosport’s Jens Voigt, his team refrained from specifying the exact cause of Cavendish’s struggles, focusing instead on providing immediate aid to help him regain ground amidst the challenging conditions. The team’s efforts included pouring water over Cavendish to combat the intense heat, which played a pivotal role in the day’s proceedings.

Despite the setbacks, Cavendish’s resolve remained intact as he continued the stage with the support of teammates, including sprint train members like Cees Bol and Michael Mørkøv. His determination to secure a historic victory, surpassing cycling legend Eddy Merckx’s record, underscores his enduring commitment to the sport.