• Mark Cavendish finished second in the elite men's road race on day eight of the UCI Road World Championships. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
At the start of 2016 many close followers of cycling had written off Mark Cavendish as a contemporary force in cycling, but at the close of the season, he remains a rider to be reckoned with.
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Cycling Central
17 Oct 2016 - 1:50 PM  UPDATED 17 Oct 2016 - 1:53 PM

Based on career form, Mark Cavendish was the fastest sprinter in the finishing group at the UCI Road World Championships in Doha, Qatar, but he just missed out on a second world title by making what he said was a "mistake".

The winner was the irrepressible Peter Sagan, who repeated as world champion, a feat only accomplished six times in world championship history.

'King Sagan' conquers Doha war of attrition for two-year rainbow reign
Peter Sagan powered home to his second consecutive road world championship, conquering Mark Cavendish and a vintage Tom Boonen. Australia's Michael Matthews finished fourth in a sprint finale befitting the windy race of attrition.

But in losing to Sagan, who is the hottest hand in cycling at the moment, Cavendish again proved that you can't write him off as a factor in any race. 

He mastered the heat and wind and covered the expected Belgian raid which placed the entire peloton in the gutter to give himself a chance to win a rare world championship perfectly suited to his abilities.

The race did not end in the expected mass sprint but instead became a classics style war of attrition, something Cavendish proved he could handle.

He was gracious in defeat, saying "at the end of the day, it's Peter Sagan, he wears that jersey with honour and he represents it well. I think I would be more disappointed if it was someone else."

But disappointed he was, despite having nothing left to prove in cycling, and in a year where he showed that he's still at his best despite the naysayers and a host of big name challengers nipping at his heels.

"I wanted to be on Sagan's wheel and I was, and then all of a sudden the road was blocked," he said after the race.

"I tried to find a way through and with less than 100 metres to go, I had to stop pedalling and go around I think, Michael Matthews, and then it was just too late.

"I got back on Tom Boonen, but it was too late to come back on Sagan.

"I'm a little bit disappointed. I feel like I lost gold rather than I won silver there, but that's how it is. We did all we can.

"It was my own fault. It wasn't my legs, and when it's not my legs, I'm a bit pissed because I made a mistake. It's not really nice to do that at a World Championships."

While all eyes were on the explosive Sagan through 2016, Cavendish was crafting a season designed for the long game and meaningful personal results, not least an Olympic medal in the Omnium.

That patience delivered some comparatively inconsequential stage wins at the Tours of Qatar, Croatia and California - then came the Tour de France.

The Tour was supposed to be the place where a theorised decline in Cavendish's fortunes would be revealed, with Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) specifically named as striking the final blow.

But Cavendish proved the master to all challengers when he delivered a redemptive performance of four stage wins before abandoning with Rio on his mind.

At Rio that coveted medal (silver behind Italy's Elia Viviani) became real in the Omnium, his season was almost complete.

All that was left for Cavendish was the pan flat sprinter-friendly world championship course, featuring the crème de la crème of fast men.