Cavendish plays down Milan-Sanremo chances: ‘I honestly don’t want to target this’
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Friday, March 15, 2013

Cavendish plays down Milan-Sanremo chances: ‘I honestly don’t want to target this’

by Shane Stokes at 5:31 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Milan-Sanremo
Many feel 2009 winner is bluffing; Sunday’s race will tell if this is the case

Mark CavendishAlthough he has been racing since January and took his earliest-ever race victory of the season then in the Tour de San Luis – and despite the fact that he has also said in recent weeks that he is lighter than usual – Mark Cavendish has again played down his chances of winning Milan-Sanremo.

Victorious three years ago while with HTC Highroad, the Manxman said in his pre-race press conference today that the race is not a priority for him.

“There's not pressure from the team, it's always pressure I put on myself,” he said, at first speaking in general terms about racing. “I mean, as my first goal of the year I once demanded the team be built around me and things haven't paid off in the past. This year it's been completely different.

“I was obviously asked if I want to target this and I honestly don't want to target this. So, the pressure just on myself has been a lot less.”

Many of Cavendish’s rivals will likely be sceptical about his stated approach to the race, and his suggestion that he is treating it as a standard event rather than a key one. After all, he has taken six wins thus far this season, with the first being that stage win in the Tour de San Luis, and then the other five coming in the Tour of Qatar.

He won four consecutive stages and the overall classification in that event, showing a rare dominance by a rider.

However if Cavendish’s diminishing of his chances is a tactic, it is one that has been relatively successful. Many who nominate their favourites for the race put Peter Sagan (Cannondale) at the top of the list, with others such as former winners Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard) and Matt Goss (Orica GreenEdge) also being named as potential winners.

Of those, the Omega Pharma Quick Step rider tips the first as being the most likely winner. “I think it's going to be very difficult to beat Sagan. He's clearly a favourite. He won a sprint in Tirreno, he won in a small group with climbing specialists,” Cavendish said.

“He's in incredibly good form and Cannondale was riding so, so strong as a team. Sagan got close last year and I really believe, barring accidents, it's going to take a miracle to beat him this year really. But we will do our best.”

Strength in numbers:

mark CavendishBy we, Cavendish means his whole team. He states that it has several options, and that the collective strength is something that they help will pay off.

“I think that's just one card we can play,” he said, referring to himself. “I think it gives me an edge if it comes for the sprint, being the fastest man, but we have so many cards we can play — Chavanel, for example, was incredible at Paris-Nice.

“I think we've got a really strong team, but I think it will take a lot to outwit Cannondale this year. This many options has made me the most relaxed I've been between Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan - San Remo.”

That lack of stress extends to his thoughts on the weather conditions predicted for Sunday. Rain and cold is said to be likely, but he said today that doesn’t perturb him. In fact, he suggested that it might actually give him an advantage.

“It's the same for the riders from Belgium as it is for those from the Isle of Man. It rains a lot, it's cold a lot,” he said. “Nobody enjoys racing in the rain but I think it's just normal. I think for those who ride in the warmer climates they're used to riding in the sun and it's not nice to be riding in the rain.

“For me, it's normal to ride in the rain, nice to ride in the sun. It's not just me doing 300km either, it's 200 riders doing it.”

Another element of being relaxed is the environment he is in at Omega Pharma Quick Step. He never really settled into Team Sky last year, feeling he was not given enough support in trying to achieve his own targets and that he had to play second fiddle to the team’s goals of winning the Tour de France and other races.

This year, he is back alongside several of those with whom he raced at HTC Highroad, including world time trial champion Tony Martin and directeur sportif Brian Holm, who is also a friend of his. He has appeared content, and confirmed today that this is the case.

“I'm happier than ever. I'm really, really happy with Omega Pharma – Quick-Step,” he said. “You know, it's been a successful start to the year and I'm really, really confident with the team. In any aspect of life, if you're happy, you're going to perform better,” he said.

He felt last year that he didn’t have as successful a year as he might have had, saying that several stage-winning chances in the Tour de France were missed due to the team focussing on the yellow jersey of Bradley Wiggins.

He’s got a team dedicated to him this season, and is looking to have his best season ever. And while Cavendish may seek to play down his chances, he also knows that a win in Milan-Sanremo would be a perfect way to build his momentum and to reinforce his status as one of the best sprinters of all time.

As for saying ‘I honestly don’t want to target this’, in relation to Sanremo? He claims that’s the case…but don’t believe it for an instant.


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