'Cavendish's reign is over' read the headline in L'Equipe.
That was on July 12 and by the end of the day it was looking questionable at best as Cavendish answered with victory in Saint-Amand-Montrond.
But, by the end of the Tour, it seemed they might be right after all.
A man accustomed to rolling up multiple stage wins at every Tour he has entered has finished with just two - the lowest total of his career bar the 2007 Tour he left just a week in.
What makes that look worse is the fact he has done it with a team built to his specifications, 12 months on from taking three stage wins while being able to claim Team Sky's focus on Sir Bradley Wiggins' bid for yellow stifled his ambitions.
The sight of him being beaten to the punch in Paris, where he had four consecutive victories prior to this year, was an entirely new one.
What was not new was seeing Cavendish frustrated during this 100th Tour de France.
It never truly got going for him, from the opening day when his dreams of yellow disappeared amid the chaos caused by the Orica GreenEdge bus crash, to a bout of bronchitis and two spills of his own that cost him shots at victory, and in one case cost him a shower of urine from an angry spectator.
More than that, though, what marked out this Tour as a potential turning point in Cavendish's career was the emergence of a rival who may just have the beating of him.
Peter Sagan won the points classification so convincingly it never really seemed a competition, but it was the performances of Marcel Kittel that stood out the most.
Cavendish spent plenty of time telling anyone who would listen that Kittel - riding in his first full Tour after his debut came to an end just five stages in last year - is the "real deal", repeating it so adamantly you wonder how far inside Cavendish's head the German has got.
Kittel rode to four stage wins, none hurting Cavendish more than the last one in Paris, and, while Cavendish's crashes helped account for two of them, it was the third of the four was most alarming.
Everything seemed set up for the Manxman when his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team delivered him to the front perfectly on stage 13 in Tours, but with nothing but clear road in front of him 100m from the line, Cavendish could only look on with amazement as Kittel came steaming past.
Cavendish was right - Kittel is indeed the real deal.
And that begs bigger questions of the reigning British champion and where he goes from here.
He must either use the emergence of Kittel as a spur ahead of next year's Tour, or go away reassess his objectives.
Cavendish is always quick to remind people that none of his stage wins should be taken for granted in a race as tough as the Tour, but two has to be a disappointing return for a man who has won 25 across six Tours.
With a team built entirely around him, better was expected and he must convince Omega Pharma-Quick Step that he is still the man or perhaps see them shift their objectives too.
The signing of Rigoberto Uran from Sky for next season, as well as the emergence of Michal Kwiatkowski, gives them general classification options going forward, while a Belgian team will always naturally look to the Classics.
Perhaps those Classics are where Cavendish turns next but this is a man who has always remained adamant that the Tour is the one that matters to him more than anything else put together.
"Just thinking about this race can bring tears to me eyes," he said after victory in Saint-Amand-Montrond.
There is no way he does not show up again next year, when the chance he missed in Bastia to where yellow will come again in his mother's home town of Harrogate But whether we will again witness the days of him dominating sprint stage after sprint stage remains to be seen.
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