PARIS, France (CT) – Mark Cavendish returned to Paris on Sunday, but in a vastly different capacity to previous years. He’s a four-time sprint winner on the Champs Elysees, yet this time around he was clad in civilian clothes and mingling with team mates, Dimension Data staff and guests.
He is still recovering from the serious crash he suffered on stage four of the race. He hit the barriers at high speed after Peter Sagan moved to his right in the sprint. The Slovakian was subsequently disqualified from the Tour, while the Manxman also had to head home.
Bringing up the image on his mobile phone on Sunday, Cavendish showed CyclingTips and Sky News an x-ray of his fractured shoulderblade. The damage was clearly visible, with a large hole visible in the centre of his scapula.
Looking at a glance like a jagged tear in a sheet of paper, the photo underlined how serious the injury was. But so too did his words.
“I’m doing all right. I’ve been doing everything I can. I was back on the Isle of Man — I was in a hyperbaric chamber over there trying to recover as much as possible. It’s pushed on a bit but it’s such a complex fracture,” he said.
“After five days I was in [only] a relatively small amount of pain but I can’t do anything with it. If I don’t let this heal properly it ruins my career. It’s a hole in my shoulder blade.
“If I don’t let that heal properly, then my career’s over.”
Cavendish had had big crashes before, and has managed to come back each time. He fell heavily on stage one of the 2014 Tour de France and badly damaged his shoulder. He returned later that year and nabbed two stages in the Tour du Poitou-Charentes.
He came back to the Tour in 2015 and added one stage win to his tally, then hit full speed again in 2016 and clocked up four more. With so many sprint stages on offer this time around, he had high hopes of beating Eddy Merckx’s all-time stage win record of 34. Instead, he must wait until next year to get the four stages he needs to draw level, and the five to end up on top.
Being absent from the bunch gallops hurt, and that has affected his viewing of the Tour.
“[I’ve been watching it] a bit,” he said. “Not the sprint days, but the mountain days.
“It was good, actually. I tell you what I’ve seen this year was a lot of … everyone willing to lay it all on the line to try and get up there towards Chris [Froome].
“It’s good to see Chris get his fourth Tour de France. Sky’s so strong like that. They were always going to be the favourites but to see the other teams, the other riders really wanting it, not happy [or] content with second or third … it was a beautiful Tour de France to watch. I’d love to have been part of it.”
Cavendish remarked that it was his first time in Paris without racing and that he deliberately avoided watching the final gallop. However he said that it was important to him to support his teammates, and that he thought that Edvald Boasson Hagen had a chance of taking the victory.
The Norwegian went close, but had to be content with third behind Dylan Groenewegen (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) and Andre Griepel (Lotto-Soudal). Still, the Norwegian’s victory on stage 19 salvaged the Tour for the team and took the pressure off.
Looking ahead, Cavendish said that he believed his chances of becoming world champion this season were effectively over.
He said that he would be out of action for another four weeks, stressing the importance of allowing his shoulder to heal completely.
“It’s been two weeks since the accident. It’s another four weeks. I’d planned on going well for the world championships this year, [but it] looks like there’s an end to that now as well,” he said.
“So it’s not just my Tour de France that’s taken a hit, but there’s people worse off. I’ll just have to prepare for next season now.
“I’ll be back racing this year, sure, but I’m not going to be in any condition to be world champion.”