Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) has yet to win a sprint in 2011 but after recovering from his high-speed crash in the Tour of Qatar prologue, he is quietly confident of securing his first victory of the year at the Tour of Oman.
Cavendish was due to head home after completing the Tour of Qatar but opted to stay in the Gulf and ride the Tour of Oman to continue his preparation for Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo, his big goal of the spring.
The HTC-Highroad sprinter rode most of the Tour of Qatar wrapped in bandages after hitting a speed bump and crashing hard. Many riders would have quit but he stayed in the race, and worked to help teammate Mark Renshaw secure overall victory as he licked his wounds.
The day before the start of the Tour of Oman, the bandages have gone from Cavendish's left arm and leg and he seemed almost back to his best.
"I'm alright now. A couple of my scars are still covered up but all the others are healing well. I'm ok," he told Cyclingnews before going for a training ride with his teammates.
"I could have gone home but I'm better off racing here than doing the same work in training. It's better to be here because I wouldn't be getting daily massage and I wouldn't be in a race regime, which is always better for me as I build up for Milan-San Remo.
"Despite my crashes, my form is actually really good. I didn’t want to take too many risks after the crash in Qatar and I also had some back luck. But I'm happy with how I'm going, the team rode well and we won too."
Four sprint finishes?
The Tour of Oman is widely expected to be won by a climber, with the stage four uphill finish to Jabal al Akhdhar and the following day's rolling 18.5km time trial considered the decisive stages.
The other four stages include some hills and the desert and coastal wind could be a factor but Cavendish is confident they will end in a sprint and hopefully give him or teammate Matt Goss a chance to win a stage.
The 128-rider field includes many of the world's best sprinters such as Tom Boonen and Francesco Chicchi (Quick Step), Daniele Bennati (Leopard Trek), Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli), Graeme Brown (Rabobank), world champion Thor Hushovd and Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo) and Taylor Phinney, who is making his full professional debut with BMC. But Cavendish has never been worried about the opposition.
"There are three definite sprints and possibly a fourth. That's plenty of opportunity to do well," he told Cyclingnews before clicking in his pedals and beginning his ride.
"With me and Matt Goss, we've got a great duo. And we've got great teammates to support us too. We should be able to do well."