Mark Cavendish came into the 2018 Tour de France with the second-most stage wins in race history to his name, but he hasn't looked like adding to that impressive palmares this time around.
"Once Quick-Step and BORA kind of go," said Cavendish, "I can't match that speed. I can't go that fast. I just can't do it."
"My back's against the wall the whole time, but I'll keep trying. It's not going to be easy for us to win here, but all we can do is try. We’ll keep doing that. We have a great morale in the team."
Stage 7 was the latest in a string of stages that have seen the Manxman arrive in position where a younger version of himself would have been right up there for a stage win. His finishing positions in the sprint stages so far this race are 36th in Stage 1, 35th in Stage 2, 21st in Stage 4 and 10th in Stage 7.
Stage 1 was very messy, with the bunch splitting to pieces on the run to the line and Cavendish getting caught behind the front group.
Stage 2 was a similar situation, Cavendish was caught behind a crash on a sharp corner that caught up the majority of the peloton.
Stage 4 saw Cavendish right up towards the front in the final kilometres, but he couldn't find the right wheel to follow after his key leadout man Mark Renshaw dropped off and had very little speed to accelerate frome when the other fast men launched. He tweeted out a GIF of a record on a turntable after the stage, maybe referencing how the sprints seemed like a broken record.
Stage 7 was Cavendish's best chance to see what sort of form he has in terms of pure speed. He in fact had an opportunity to follow the eventual stage-winner Dylan Groenewegen (Lotto NL-Jumbo), but instead kept to a tighter line around the corner. He collided with the front wheel of Kristoff, and in the effort to stay upright lost all speed and drifted over the finish line tenth, when he had a chance at fourth or fifth.
“I thought when I kicked in the last metres I had a chance," said Cavendish. "Then I had a little come together with Alex in the end. I think it might have been my fault. It just kind of stopped me dead.”
The sprint came at the end of 231 kilometre stage that took the peloton five hours and forty three minutes to complete, dawdling along at a slow pace for most of the course. That changed as the sprint trains lined it out for the finish.
“That pinch point with 2km to go, that messed up a lot of lead-out trains," said Cavendish. "There are a few renegades about, but then you just slotted in.
"Actually the speed was super high. With 400m to go, I saw the sprinters all around me and with only one or two guys. I thought ok, I'd jump from wheel to wheel and actually that was going to be good.
"It was a headwind, and so it was always going to be easiest to move from wheel to wheel. Until a couple of hundred metres, I was all right and happy with it. The legs felt good. I went - and I've looked at my power - my power was good. But I didn’t win, so that’s that."
The sometimes brash British fast man hasn't lost his sprinter's mentality, he's still the same person mentally that seemingly amassed wins for fun over his Tour de France appearances.
The interviewer closed with a question on Cavendish taking confidence into the upcoming stages.
“I've had confidence always, so...”
So, something else must be missing.