After missing out on his chance for victory in Milan-San Remo, Mark Cavendish fell ill and missed an entire month of competition. However, the lack of race days didn't stop the Omega Pharma-Quickstep sprinter from winning the opening stage of the Presidential Tour of Turkey and donning the turquoise leader's jersey.
"I was a bit surprised by my speed," Cavendish said, describing the sprint after the 141km stage in Alanya. "I had to go a little bit early. There was a slight headwind. I think I went at 250 meters because I was about six wheels back. When I initially kicked, I was surprised how nice I felt. So, I just kept it going and when I was ahead, I didn't know by how much, I thought someone might be closing from behind, but I won."
Cavendish was ruled out of Gent-Wevelgem in March with a fever caused by a viral infection that was a result of the cold and wet edition of Milan-San Remo. He failed to improve sufficiently to race the Three Days of De Panne, and then was forced to alter his plan to race the Giro d'Italia and opt for Tour of California instead. The Tour of Turkey was to be his re-entry into the peloton, but he wasn't sitting on just in hopes of finishing in his first outing of the UCI 2.HC race.
"I was in good condition before I got sick so it's not like I was in bad condition after my illness, it just went down a little bit. It's the first race after five weeks so you never really know. I didn't think I'd be dropped or struggling or anything, but I didn't know if I had it in me to win. But I was training my sprint at home and it was there today. My team did a brilliant job to keep me up there and keep me out of trouble. I'm glad I could win it for them."
Cavendish has some of his main lead-out men at his side in Turkey in a team solely dedicated to the flat finishes: Alessandro Petacchi, Mark Renshaw, Gert Steegmans, Iljo Keisse, Kevin De Weert and Gianni Meersman, but also 21-year-old Czech rider Petr Vakoc.
The lead-out may not have been textbook, but Cavendish found himself in a good position to kick for the win. "We have young guys in this team who went flat out and gave it a 100 per cent, and perhaps did too much a little too early but it's part of the learning process. But I was in the top 6 in the finale, which is a good position to be in this kind of sprint."