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Mark Cavendish has said the pro cycling is over for riders of his body type, after badly struggling through the opening stage of the Tour de France (Photo: Charly Lopez)

Mark Cavendish may have looked ill and in real trouble off the back of the main field on stage 1 at the Tour de France, but the Astana Qazaqstan Team rider made it to the finish well inside the time limit.

He finished in the last group on the road, with four of his team mates, some 39:12 down on stage winner Romain Bardet (Team dsm-firmenich PostNL) some 10 minutes inside the time limit.

Though he was dropped early, it was the sight of him throwing up – as he struggled to keep down fluids while clearly suffering in the heat – that raised concerns around his ability to finish, more so than the danger of missing the time cut.

And the British rider implied through he made it today, cycling had changed and perhaps the time was up for riders of his physical build.

“We know what we’re doing, it’s not easy… I’d always say, though, if you’ve got my body type now, don’t start cycling because them days are gone,” he said at the finish in Rimini after 206km of racing.

“But we know what we’re doing, it doesn’t mean it’s easy, we’re not riding around talking. That was so hard, that was so hard. Bu we had a plan and we stuck to it. OK, I would have liked to stay for one more climb in the peloton but I was seeing stars, really it was so hot.”

Cavendish said he and his team mates knew “what to do to get inside the time limit and that’s what you do”, he remarked of the effort required today.

“It’s a bit boring that’s the way cycling has gone. We know it makes a nice story, the closer (riders are) to the time limit. But that time limit shouldn’t be… it’s not really there to put people out, to try and get people out of the race.

“It’s there for people who are sick and injured, to stop them carrying on. But, like I said, we had it under control.”

Now aged 39 years, Cavendish spent several years in the wilderness with illness – and mental health issues – before storming back to form at the Tour de France in 2021, when he won four stages and the green jersey.

Those wins meant he drew level, on 34 career wins at the Tour, with Eddy Merckx. And though the British rider went back to the Tour last year seeking that last victory to bring him to the top of the all-time list on his own, he crashed out on stage 8. He is now back, for a likely last appearance in the race, aiming to win.

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