Mark Cavendish turned up in Florence at the start of stage 11 of the Giro d'Italia on Wednesday decked out in full Dimension Data team kit. Taking the opportunity to drop in on teammates and friends as the race passed close to his home, he revealed that he's no closer to knowing when he might be able to pin a race number to that kit.
Cavendish was diagnosed with Epstein Barr Virus - commonly known as glandular fever or mononucleosis - last month, an illness for which recovery times vary wildly. Members of team staff have given updates on Cavendish's condition in recent weeks, revealing he had returned to light training, but Cavendish spoke publicly about it for the first time in Florence.
"I'm ok, thank you. I don't feel ill, I just feel a bit unfit. It's been a long time off the bike. Some days I feel on top of the world, some days I don't, but at least I'm riding my bike and that's the main thing, you know," he said at the start.
"I can't put a definitive time on when I'm back. It could be 10 days, it could be one year, I really don't know. But I'll just keep riding and see."
Cavendish bases himself in the Tuscan region of Italy and, even with his relatively light training load, it was a manageable trip over to soak in the atmosphere of a race and catch up with his teammates.
"It's good to be here. I live just 25 kilometres from here so I couldn't miss it," he said. "It's been a dead nice Giro on TV so I couldn't miss it. Here on Piazzale Michelangelo, it's an incredible view over Florence but I don't fancy doing the rest of this stage. I was going to put a number on, but I don't really know if I could get away with trying to replace one of the guys on my team."
Cavendish last raced at Milan-San Remo towards the end of March. He was set to ride the Tour de Romandie last month and the Tour of California this month, before the diagnosis was made.
Asked if he missed racing, he said: "Really I do. I've been watching the Giro and Tour of California on TV, that's all I can do, watch TV. I can't do anything else except ride. It's kind of difficult but to come and see my friends and teammates and the guys at the start to day, it's been real nice."