“Hats off to Mr Cavendish,” Prudhomme said to Reuters before the start of the 12th stage on Thursday. “That was such a mark of respect for the Tour.”
Prudhomme said he had to press the local authorities not to open the roads to circulation again in order to allow Cavendish to finish the stage safely.
Cavendish had appeared out of form, never being in the mix for the final sprint in the flat stages.
The 33-year-old won his first Tour stage in 2008 and his last in 2016. Only Belgian great Eddy Merckx has won more stage wins on the Tour, with 34 stage victories to his name.
(This version of the story corrects headline to say Cavendish failed to make time cut, not that he pulled out of the race).