Cavendish to miss Milan-Sanremo?
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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cavendish to miss Milan-Sanremo?

by VeloNation Press at 8:32 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Milan-Sanremo

HTC-Columbia sprinter Mark Cavendish has started off his 2010 season a bit behind schedule. The Manxman is used to having his way in the run up to the line, but his recent performances have brought up questions about whether he'll be ready to defend his Milan-Sanremo title in a few weeks time.

Cavendish was forced to stay off the bike and miss valuable training after a tooth procedure in January. He complained about a severe toothache while in Paraguay over Christmas, and had to undergo emergency surgery to have an abscess drained during HTC-Columbia training camp in Mallorca, Spain.

Last week he made his season debut at the Ruta del Sol and scrambled to pick up fourth place in the one sprint he contested. Triple world champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank) took home the honors that day, with Robert Wagner (Skil-Shimano) and Alex Rasmussen (Saxo Bank) finishing in second and third, surprisingly in front of the HTC-Columbia leader.

"I want to see how Cavendish is going," rival Alessandro Petacchi told Tuttosport before the Spanish race. "We will have an idea in these next days, but I am waiting for the Tirreno-Adriatico, where we will be able to see who is truly in form."

The Italian already has four wins to his credit this year and, five years after his only victory in the race, would like to add a second Milan-Sanremo title to his name.

This past weekend Cavendish took part in the Clasica de Almeria and finished second to Cervélo TestTeam's Theo Bos. The Dutchman is in his first year with Cervélo after riding for the Rabobank Continental team last year. Bos also got the better of seasoned sprinter Graeme Brown from the Rabobank ProTour squad, who finished off the podium in third.

"There is still a good chance that Mark Cavendish will ride in Milan-Sanremo ... and win it," HTC-Columbia sports director Rolf Aldag told today.

While Cavendish was the undisputed king of the sprints last year, his teammate André Greipel was a close second. The German powerhouse has already racked up five sprint wins this season, also taking the overall and points classifications at the Tour Down Under.

Greipel has publicly stated that he would like to step into a leadership role and that he wouldn't have a problem if Cavendish decided to leave the team for the new British Team Sky. “It would be the most favourable solution for everyone,” he said last month, according to “Obviously I would love to see myself as Team Columbia’s number one sprinter.”

The HTC Columbia team management has said that it is considering putting both riders in the Tour de France this July but, if so, Greipel would have to work for Cavendish. It remains to be seen how well that arrangement would work out.

"There are others who are struggling with their form," Aldag continued, but Cavendish still has some time to come around. "Greipel is also a possibility [for Milan-Sanremo]. We will make the decision after Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico," he concluded.

The off-season saw Cavendish lose several key members of his leadout train including Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) and the man who delivered him in Sanremo last year, George Hincapie (BMC Racing). Cavendish's sprint victims from last year have trained over the winter hoping to find a weakness in HTC-Columbia's number one, and will no doubt find extra motivation in his recent performances.

To make matters worse, his trusty leadout man Mark Renshaw has yet to start his 2010 season after being diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus. The duo will have their work cut out for them as they try to regain the form that made them an unbeatable combination last year.


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