Mark Cavendish is confident he will retake his place as cycling's dominant sprinter after a torrid start to his 2010 season.
The 24-year-old HTC-Columbia rider has experienced a series of well documented interruptions to his early-season racing. He has battled to regain form after complications arose from pre-season dental surgery and most recently revealed the tension that exists with his teammate and fellow sprinter André Greipel.
In a revealing interview with British newspaper The Sunday Times, Cavendish expressed his belief that he will return to the form that saw him win 27 races in 2009, including six stages at the Tour de France. So far this season, Cavendish has only recorded one victory, compared to eight wins by this time last year.
"It might not be this year but I know I can get back, and then no-one will remember this [period]. So it’s just putting up with it, just getting through it. I have real downers, really big downers," Cavendish admitted.
He revealed that his well publicized dental problems had come after he defied medical orders and returned to training too soon after having work done to straighten his teeth in Paraguay. A subsequent infection and three-week lay-off destroying his hopes of early season success.
"I was on antibiotics for 10 days and they wiped me out. I had diarrhea. I couldn’t eat. I was lying in my bed for days and lost so much weight. I couldn’t train for three weeks and lost so much muscle that it knocked me right back. If I could turn back time, I would stick with my teeth [laughs]. I am not normally vain but that was the one thing that got me," he said.
While the dental issues have had a specific physical impact upon Cavendish's season start, he admitted that pressure has been building since his dominant display at last year's Tour de France. The break down of his relationship with his then fiancée, the serious accident of his close friend Jonathan Bellis (Saxo Bank), and the arrest and subsequent jailing of his brother on drugs charges have all happened in the last 12 months.
"I wouldn’t have said that shit last week [about André Greipel] if I wasn’t on a downer. But sometimes you are not yourself and it’s easy to get down," he said.
Cavendish said that the consequences of his huge success in 2009 had been another factor compounding the personal difficulties he has faced. Despite this, he remains focused on returning to top form.
"Of course [fame is] hard. There are so many ‘yes’ people now, it is so easy to change who you are," he said. "Yeah, [fame has changed me] a bit. It’s not harder to stay motivated — I’m still really motivated — but it’s harder when you reach the top. It’s such a big fall now."
Cavendish, who is scheduled to race at the Tour de Romandie next week, also re-stated his major objectives for this year, which include the Tour de France and the World Championships. Despite all his problems, he made it clear he has not lost any of his hunger for victory or fighting spirit.
"My short-term target is to win the green jersey (at the Tour de France) and to win the World Championships in the next two years, but long-term, I want to expand my thing. A journalist asked me the other week, 'Would you not like to win races alone?' I said, 'Of course I would, but I’m a paid professional. This is not a f****** hobby! I’m in cycling to succeed!'"