Grand Tour-treble possible, close friend Bellis improving
Mark Cavendish signalled that the World Road Championships is a major goal for him over the next two years and this year's Championships in Melbourne, Australia, will sit alongside the Tour de France as one of his two major season objectives for 2010.
"The World Championships is a big target. It'd be nice to win Milan-Sanremo with number one on my back, but in terms of wins, the Tour de France and the World Championships are the big aims for this season," said Cavendish at a press conference at the HTC-Columbia presentation in Majorca on Tuesday.
Although he doesn't expect a traditional sprint finish at this year's worlds, Cavendish said he had circled the race in his programme. "I don't think Melbourne's going to be a sprint finish, but it's a course I can be with the front group so it's been a target for me for the last couple of years, and I've got a great national team behind me," he said.
"[The 2011 Worlds in] Copenhagen, for sure, will end in a sprint, and I think there's something about pulling on the rainbow jersey on the road that gives you goosebumps."
Cavendish noted that this year's later-season focus on the worlds also see him start at the Vuelta a España. Although the season's first Grand Tour, the Giro d'Italia, will clash with the Tour of California - an important race for HTC-Columbia's US-based sponsors - the 24-year-old indicated a desire to be at the start when the race begins in Amsterdam on May 8. "The Giro, I really, really want to do it, but [the team and I] still haven't come to a decision on that," he said.
While three Grand Tours remain a possibility, the Tour de France is the one at which Cavendish will expect success. He is certain his team will return to the Tour with all its bases well covered. "I'm confident I'll do what I need to do, and I'm confident the team will do what it needs to do," he said.
"We had the best guys in the world for my train [last year], but I think anybody [in the team] can slip into the places. I've seen all the new faces - and the old faces - in this team and they've all got dedication and the inspiration, so I'm not worried. Mark Renshaw's always going to stay one rider ahead of me. For me, he's the best lead-out man in the world and a sprinter in his own right, but ahead of that there are so many options we can have, so we'll just see how it goes."
While HTC-Columbia confirmed on Monday that Renshaw's recovery from Epstein Barr virus was progressing well, Cavendish admitted that the health of another close friend, Johnny Bellis, had dominated his thoughts throughout the off-season.
Saxo Bank's Bellis was placed in an induced coma after a motor scooter crash in Quarranta, Italy, last September. A fellow Manxman and a neighbour in Quarranta, Cavendish has remained close to Bellis throughout his recovery in the months since the accident.
"He's starting to walk again, not far, a few metres, but he's standing up. He's doing really, really well. He's a strong guy, physically and strong willed," Cavendish said. "It was hard. It went from the start where the doctors were saying 'call his parents, he's not going to make it' and then every day he was just better, better, better. It's an incredible recovery.
"It was a lot of energy; we were going to the hospital every day. Then you worry when he has a little dip – it happens to everyone they're getting better then they'll have a dip and that takes a lot from you. But he's doing good and I'm confident he'll be riding his bike again."
With the turbulent off-season now behind him, Cavendish's season will begin at Tour of Qatar on February 7. With either the Tour of Oman or Volta ao Algarve to follow the Qatari race, he will then make his final preparations for Milan-Sanremo at Monte Paschi Eroica and Tirreno Adriatico.
The shift in scheduling of the Flandrian Classics will also allow Cavendish to start at Gent-Wevelgem and the Ronde van Vlaanderen. While he will not be heading to the latter race for a result, he said the event will be a highlight of his season. "For me, doing those climbs and seeing those crowds along the side of the road [at the Ronde], that's a big, big dream for me."
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