Mark Cavendish: “I'm positive we'll dominate again.”
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Friday, December 20, 2013

Mark Cavendish: “I'm positive we'll dominate again.”

by Ben Atkins at 3:57 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Manx Missile determined to perfect his sprint train in time for Yorkshire Tour de France start

mark cavendishMark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) has one big goal in 2014: to take the yellow jersey on the first day of the Tour de France, in Yorkshire, northern England. In an interview with the BBC, the Manx Missile looked back on a year where he was arguably challenged more by his rivals than he has been since the beginning of his career, but maintains that his team will be able to return him to his position as the World’s number one sprinter once again.

“One thing we've got to talk about is the Giro d’Italia,” Cavendish said. “I won five stages and the red jersey - a sprinter hasn't done that for ages.

“There was a big thing made of the Giro when Brad Wiggins [Team Sky] was going for it but when he dropped out everybody forgot about it," the British champion added. "For a sprinter to win five stages and the red jersey is a big, big thing.

“To then go and back it up at the Tour with two more stages, that's quite good.”

His two-stage haul at the Tour de France was Cavendish’s lowest return since he drew a blank in his truncated debut in 2007. Argos-Shimano’s Marcel Kittel was the man to steal the former World champion’s crown as the Tour’s sprint king, taking four stages, and Cavendish recognises that he has a very worthy rival.

"Kittel is good," Cavendish stressed. "He's not just had a good year, he's good.

"But at his age [25 - ed] I was winning five, so I'm not that worried," he added. "I know the problems we had this year, so I'm not stressed. But it was the first time I felt really threatened, so I know I can't take things for granted anymore. I'm positive we'll dominate again.”

Much of Cavendish’s trouble at the Tour de France was down to the newly-formed Omega Pharma-Quick Step sprint train struggling, but much of it was also down to the fact that he had ridden around the whole of one of the toughest Giri d’Italia in recent years.

"Everybody who rode the Giro, let alone finished it, didn't do well at the Tour: its severity, the weather, the terrain, it killed us," he explained. "So if I do [the Giro] this year, there's only a small chance of me finishing. I don't like not finishing races but I can't risk hurting my chances of getting the yellow."

To take the yellow jersey, in a race that still eschews time bonuses at the stage finishes, Cavendish will have to win one of the early stages; realistically, this would have to be the opening stage between Leeds and Harrogate. The Manxman wants a winning season, however, but to take the yellow jersey in his mother’s hometown will certainly be his biggest target.

"I want to win things in the build-up - and I want to do well at the whole Tour - but if there's one day I had to pick it would be that first stage in Yorkshire," he explained.

Cavendish’s defeats at the Tour were down to more than his own exhaustion and his team’s struggles to deliver him to the place he wants to be in the finishing straight, but also down to the efforts of his rivals teams in positioning their own sprinters.

"You've got to give the other teams some praise," Cavendish admitted. "Argos[-Shimano] worked extremely well. So don't be derogatory towards us, give them the credit.

"They were phenomenal. It was the best lead-out team I've seen since HTC [Cavendish’s former team - ed], by quite a margin,” he added. “Lotto[-Belisol, André Greipel’s team - ed] think they have it drilled - they don't, they just bash people out of the way. Argos have it drilled."

Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s lead out train at the 2014 Tour de France will be very different to the one of 2013 though, as the late summer signing of Italian former-super-sprinter Alessandro Petacchi has already proved in races like the Tour of Britain. It should be the acquisition of Cavendish’s former lead out man Mark Renshaw, after two difficult years sprinting for himself at Belkin, that will return the Cannonball to the front of the pack.

“We've strengthened our sprint team a lot, which is really promising,” Cavendish said. “We've signed Renshaw, who we know is the best lead-out man in the world, and I've already started working with Petacchi - he's just been mind-blowing, he is so smooth.

“Combine those two with Gert Steegmans and Matteo Trentin, and we've got a formidable line-up. It's exciting.

“People said we didn't get our sprint train right this year,” Cavendish added. “But it normally takes two years to get a sprint train right; we were getting it right within six months. It took Sky two years to build a General Classification team, and that's not as intricate as a sprint team.”

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