After the dust cleared at the 2009 Tour de France, Columbia-HTC's sprint phenomenon Mark Cavendish had racked up an impressive six stage victories while Cervélo TestTeam's Thor Hushovd claimed one stage and the green jersey. Cavendish and Hushovd have not raced head-to-head since the Tour de France's concluding stage in Paris on July 26, but that will soon change at the USA's Tour of Missouri.
When the gun goes off to commence the seven-day Tour of Missouri on Monday afternoon, Cavendish and Hushovd will again be expected to contest for stage wins in an event with several opportunities for sprinters, beginning with the opening 120.7-kilometre circuit race in St. Louis. Cavendish returns to Missouri with high expectations, having won three stages in 2008, yet the Briton enters the race harboring modest goals.
"I'll be happy with one [win], really," said Cavendish at a pre-race press conference. "I've won a stage in every [stage] race I've done since March 2008 and I want to carry on with that. Obviously every sprint I do I'd like to win, but we'll see how it goes."
Cavendish was eager to come back to the Tour of Missouri in 2009 buoyed by his previous experience. "I pushed hard with my team to come back here," said Cavendish. "I really liked the race last year and I really like coming to America. When you're winning it makes it a little more special. There's more sprint stages this year and I'm looking to get some wins out of that."
Being the season's dominant sprinter, Cavendish expects all eyes in the Tour of Missouri peloton will be on Columbia-HTC to control affairs, a situation the Briton has experienced previously. "I just hope we don't get a repeat of the Tour de France where we don't get any help for the first half of a stage,” he said. “That's the dilemma we've put ourselves in. I think Cervélo has a very strong team in the sprints and it's in their interest to help us."
Cervélo TestTeam also brings a team well-equipped to handle the sprint stages, led by two-time Tour de France green jersey winner Hushovd. The Norwegian will gain invaluable support from teammates Heinrich Haussler, himself a 2009 Tour de France stage winner and Milano-Sanremo runner-up, plus proven fast men Jeremy Hunt and Brett Lancaster.
Hushovd is well aware of challenge he faces from Cavendish but the Norwegian is ready to race. "As we learned in the Tour de France he's [Cavendish - ed.] a hard man to beat in the sprint," said Hushovd. "I won one stage there, I was happy, and of course we're going to try again here in the Tour of Missouri."
Providing added motivation in the Tour of Missouri's opening stage in St. Louis, the winner will receive a Buell 1125R motorcycle valued at USD $15,000, news to both Cavendish and Hushovd. "I probably shouldn't share that with my team-mates," said Cavendish. "They'll probably go harder and try to drop me."
Never one to shy away from speaking his mind at a press conference, Saxo Bank's Jens Voigt quipped: "How about he wins the first stage tomorrow, takes the motorbike, jumps on it and keeps riding down Route 66. How about that?"