Cavendish switched teams this year — from Sky to Omega Pharma-Quick Step — because he wanted to be even more successful at the Tour, specifically. Unlike at Sky, which last year focused its resources on Tour winner Bradley Wiggins and, at this Tour, race leader Chris Froome, Omega has built its team around Cavendish.
Yet, aside from his win in Stage 5, this isn't proving to be a vintage Tour for Cavendish. He had a heavy cold in the first week. He collided with Tom Veelers, knocking the Dutch rider off his bike, in the sprint finish of Stage 10. Cavendish insisted it wasn't intentional.
The next day, a spectator doused him in urine during the time trial. But perhaps worst of all is that Kittel is dominating Cavendish. The Argos-Shimano sprinter has three wins at this Tour. That makes a total of five for German riders, with Tony Martin winning the time trial and Andre Greipel winning a sprint on Stage 6.
"As we say in Germany, good things come in three," Kittel said.
Rolf Aldag, an Omega director, said he still regards Cavendish as "the best sprinter in the world." Given the tightness of the finish, Aldag says it "would be unfair to say that he doesn't have it. I think he still has it."
At Sky, Cavendish's former boss, Dave Brailsford, also warned against jumping to conclusions. He suggested Cavendish simply needs to completely gel with his Omega teammates responsible for maneuvering him into position to compete in the final sprints.
"Mark Cavendish has delivered more often for more times in more races than any other sprinter," Brailsford said. "He is not a machine, he has got a new lead-out team and that will take a bit of time to bed in."