Cavendish back on track at Tour of Turkey after March illness

Etixx-QuickStep rider sprints to opening stage win and early leader's jersey

Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) is happy with the way his season is progressing despite suffering a series of minor setbacks in March. At the Tour of Turkey, a first building block in his Tour de France preparation, the 29-year-old quickly got back to his winning ways, edging out Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) to take the stage 1 victory.

The Manxman made an impressive start to the year with six wins, including stages of the Tour de San Luis and the Dubai Tour and one-day victories at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and the Clásica de Almería.

But he and lead-out man Mark Renshaw came down with a virus during a trip to South Africa at the start of March, which forced him to take a short break and miss Scheldeprijs. Once back in Europe, he was denied the chance to contest a bunch sprint at Tirreno-Adriatico and again Milan-San Remo because of a dropped chain.

“Ideally I’d have liked to have carried on further into the spring but I got sick in South Africa and really I needed to stop and get over the virus,” said Cavendish after the stage in Alanya.

“Just to stop, reset it, and get going again was quite nice. I don’t think I’m in as good a condition as I could have been but I’m definitely happy with where I’m at, I’m happy with the strong team Etixx-QuickStep have brought here.”

He didn’t expand on whether or not the chain issue, which had also hindered teammate Tom Boonen this season, had been properly addressed, saying simply: “My chain didn’t drop today."

Although he was the victor today, he was made to sweat by Ewan who, almost 10 years his junior, missed out by just half a bike length. The Australian has been heralded as one of the brightest sprint prospects and has won two stages of the Herald Sun Tour and of the Tour de Langkawi already this year. Cavendish, though, refused to buy into the hype.

“He’s just another competitor. If I look at it bluntly, whoever’s there we have to try and beat them and I’m happy we did today.

“I don’t know if Orica-GreenEdge have so much faith in him. They didn’t ride for a sprint, they didn’t put anyone in to pull today, which is a bit of a shame because he came close to me, so hopefully they’ll put some more faith in him and ride for the sprint and I’m sure he’ll deliver in the future.

“There have been many people in my career that have beaten me once and they get a big contract – usually Lampre picks up everybody who beats me one time in the season. I think he’s good, it’s the first time I’ve raced with him.”

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