Rolf Aldag has given Mark Cavendish a boost ahead of the World Championships road race on Sunday, telling Cyclingnews that even if not at 100 per cent he will line-up as one of the favourites for the rainbow jersey on Sunday.
Cavendish, who won the road title in 2011, has had a hugely successful season to date with four stage wins at the Tour de France, an Olympic silver medal in Rio and a Madison World title on the track. The flat course in Qatar represents his best chance of winning the road world title since Copenhagen and Great Britain have assembled a team dedicated to his cause.
In recent weeks Cavendish's preparation for the Worlds has been affected by illness and he altered his race programme in the build up. Sixth at last week's Paris-Tours showed he has not lost his form and Aldag, who directs him at Dimension Data, backed the British sprinter for Doha.
"I have a clear view because wherever he goes, and it's a flat course, he's automatically one of the favourites," the German told Cyclingnews.
"Everyone will take him seriously for the race, so guys like Bouhanni, Kristoff, Kittel and the others will not forget him just because he didn't have a perfect preparation. That won't happen. He's done amazing things in his career."
Whether Cavendish is at 100 per cent is unclear. His sixth place at Paris-Tours suggested that he has the form and that the recent illness has not ruined his World Championship preparation. His focus on the World Championships has been clear since the start of the year too, and after the Rio Olympics he took just a handful of days off the bike before returning to training.
"If I say he can't win at 100 per cent then he'll hate me for the rest of this life but maybe it will give him added motivation and help him race better,” Aldag joked.
"But seriously I struggle with how the race will unfold. Can he race in those conditions? Well he won the Tour of Qatar so he can. We can't say he's bad in the cross winds because he's proved himself already."
For Aldag the heat will be the biggest factor in the race, not the cross-winds. Riders struggled with the searing temperatures in the time trials and there is a possibility of the road races being cut in length if the heat continues to be a problem. Aldag added that the Belgian team, led by Greg Van Avermaet and Tom Boonen would quite possibly look to make the race as aggressive as possible. Boonen has been hugely successful at racing in the Tour of Qatar throughout his career, while Van Avermaet's race craft has improved immensely over the last twelve months.
"We can determine how the race will go though because in my opinion the Belgians will not wait for a sprint so that they can bring Cavendish and Andre Greipel to the line. I don't think that's there plan. They'll want to do something different so what is really going to happen and which nations really believe that they can control and win it? Some of the favourites don't have complete teams. If you look at the Germans they have six riders and three of them are the favourites. That doesn't leave them a lot to work with when trying to control the race."
"For me the biggest competitor for the sprinters is the heat. It will bring you to your limit and that's the biggest threat to the riders, not really the wind."
Germans right to have options
Aldag also cast his eyes over the German nation team. The squad were embroiled in a leadership battle right up until September with Greipel, Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb all advocating for the chance to lead. In the end all three were selected with Greipel chosen as the main leader.
"I think it’s correct to go with one leader. I think the discussion about leadership at the start of the year was useless, when it was brought up first at Tirreno. You also don’t know if you’re going to be 100 per cent okay for October back in July. There's no person on the planet who knows that. So to go with one leader is right but they should only be the one leader for the last 400 meters because ultimately that’s where the others have to become leadout guys. Until then they need to look out for each other."
Aldag added that Kittel and Degenkolb were right to be part of the team, even if Greipel had been primed to lead the team.
"I talked to a couple of them individually and they said 'well if he goes then I stay home'. That's absolutely stupid because then you're watching it at home from your couch and there might be a crash or a flat tire and you'll regret it of the rest of your life if you're not there to benefit from that situation. If you have a leader then you should stick to that but until you get to the sprint there's over 200 kilometres to race."