Manxman Cavendish looked on course to claim the stage win and the race leader’s yellow jersey but was edged out by Team Sky’s Elia Viviani in a sprint finish in Wrexham, as Germany’s Andre Greipel came a close third.
The 30-year-old has not competed at the Vuelta since his early exit in 2011, and was intent on extolling the merits of the Tour of Britain despite being denied what would have been the 11th stage victory of his career at the race.
“The Vuelta has just become stupid now – 11 mountaintop finishes this year,” he said. “Sprinters aren’t bad bike riders. You don’t have to go quick uphill to make it a good race, do you know what I mean?
“Nobody wants to go to the Vuelta any more unless they crashed out of the Tour de France. This is the best race to prepare for the Worlds. It’s hard, it’s heavy roads, long stages. I just hope the organisers keep it like this.”
Spain’s Joaquim Rodriguez, meanwhile, cut the deficit on Vuelta leader Fabio Aru to just a solitary second yesterday with victory on the 15th stage.