Cavendish eyes beyond Giro d’Italia stage one for sprint wins

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Mark Cavendish insisted he was relaxed and confident about his form before the start of the Giro d’Italia, but appeared nervous as he answered questions from the media on Wednesday, dismissing suggestions that he and other pure sprinters have a chance to win Friday’s opener. stage on the equestrian arrival above Visegrád, north of Budapest.

There were no questions about Cavendish securing a spot on the QuickStep-AlphaVinyl team for the Tour de France or his plans beyond 2022, but the Zoom call sounded more painful than a visit to the dentist.

Cavendish returns to the Giro d’Italia after a nine-year hiatus, during which his sprint campaign often included the Tour of California in May and focused more on the Tour de France in July. He won 15 stages of the Grand Tour of Italy, as well as two stints in the leader pink maglia and winning the red dot ranking jersey in his last appearance in 2013.

Cavendish turns 37 on May 21, when the Giro climbs around Turin on Stage 14, and has transcended several generations of sprinters. After almost a decade away, the sprint still inspires and motivates him, but also leaves him curious about how the Giro d’Italia sprints have changed.

“It’s always been a race I’ve enjoyed doing in the past. Obviously the dynamics may have changed after nine years, so it might not be the race I remember. We’ll see. . But it’s a race,” he said, apparently happy to compete as much as possible, after not turning his legs in anger for a month.

“I prepared for this race and I didn’t prepare for the Tour last year, so I feel quite relaxed,” he said when asked to compare his return to the Giro on its hugely successful return to Grand Tour racing last year. Tour de France, where he won four stages and the green points jersey.

“I think I’m in quite similar form to last year. I had a good preparation and I’m quite happy with where I am.”

Cavendish has already won three times this season, at the Tour of Oman, the Tour of the United Arab Emirates and Milan-Turin in March, despite falling sharply at Gent Six Day in November.

“Because I was winning early, people tend to forget that I had a punctured lung at the end of November. Of course it’s hard, but I work hard. It’s not easy,” he said. precise.

Strong teammates and strong rivals

Cavendish will face Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ), Giacomo Nizzolo (Israel-Premier Tech), Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) and Biniam Girmay (Intermarché -Wanty -Gobert) out of seven expected sprint opportunities at the Giro d’Italia.

However, he played down the sprinters’ chances of dominating in Visegrád on Friday. “I think most of the pure sprinters won’t be in contention in the first stage,” he said.

“The Giro has always had some wild stages this year, it’s no different but it’s the same for everyone, isn’t it?”

The only thing that made Cavendish smile was a question about his teammates and in particular his sprint lead, which includes valued last man Michael Mørkøv.

The Dane guided Cavendish to four stage wins in last year’s Tour de France and was a somewhat surprising selection for top spot in Italy. He has spent much of this season riding with Fabio Jakobsen, who is expected to race in the 2022 Tour as a QuickStep lead sprinter, but has also helped Cavendish win the Tour of the United Arab Emirates and Milan-Turin. The two are different characters but combine perfectly in sprints.

“We have a good team, we are in good shape,” said Cavendish. “I love riding with Morky (Michael Mørkøv), but it’s not just Morky. We have an incredibly strong team here, with Bert [Van Lerberghe], Ballero (Davide Ballerini), Mauro Schmid, Mauri Vansevenant and Knoxy (James Knox). They are great guys to ride with in Italy, both on the bike and at the table. I am very happy with this composition.

“It’s good to have people you trust. It’s not just Michael, it’s also the guys in front of him. It makes his job easier when he has guys he can follow. It’s the most important factor for my confidence for the Giro. I know that I have guys in front of me who I can trust.”

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