BRITISH cycling star Mark Cavendish said he was “gutted” to miss out on a sprint finish along Blackpool Promenade after a stage of the Tour of Britain race was cancelled for the first time.
The North West stage of the eight-day extravaganza was called off around an hour before yesterday’s scheduled start in Kendal because of dangerously high winds along the 137.7km route, particularly in Blackpool which was to have staged the thrilling finish along the seafront.
At least Blackpool fans weren’t denied the chance to see Tour de France star Cavendish in the flesh, as he honoured a commitment to attend a roadshow at the Tower yesterday afternoon.
The 26-year-old from the Isle of Man said: “‘I was really gutted when I heard the stage had been called off as it’s so close to my home.
“I consider Blackpool almost to be home ground. The support of the crowd is always amazing here.
“Even with the weather as it is, there are still people outside on the Promenade just to see the exhibition.”
Cavendish was hoping to win a Tour stage in Blackpool for the first time, having finished third and fourth on his two previous attempts.
The sprint star, who had won Sunday’s opening stage in Scotland for his HTC Highroad team, may not have raced in Blackpool for five years but he revealed he is very familiar with the resort.
“I’ve been to Blackpool many a time when I was younger,” he added. “In fact, about ten years ago I danced at the Tower Ballroom in a championship.”
Ballroom dancing runs in the Cavendish family’s blood and he was a keen competitor as a teenager before taking up cycling.
Cavendish also reflected on another excellent Tour de France campaign, during which a further five stage wins took his career total to 20.
He added: “It’s been an amazing time for me. Standing on the podium in Paris (where he claimed the green jersey as the Tour’s top sprinter) was a dream come true. The Olympics is the next big target for me and I can’t wait.”
The decision to cancel the stage was taken jointly between the organisers and the teams/riders.
Race director Mick Bennett said: “In my 30 years of organising cycling events I have never once had to cancel a stage before it even started, so this is not a decision that has been taken lightly.
“However, today has presented as with a set of extreme circumstances. The safety of competitors, officials, staff and, of course, spectators is of more importance than the spectacle. We cannot and will not take the slightest risk when it comes to safety.
“There were large sections of the stage on exposed hillsides and the final 5km along Blackpool Promenade were deemed unsafe.”
The Tour was set to continue as planned today, with the third stage based around Stoke. The riders gradually make their way south until Sunday’s eighth and final stage in London.
Mark Cavendish was talking to WILLIAM WATT