Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) loves to prove people wrong and the more he hears others say that the course for the world championships in Australia is too hard for him, the more he is determined to win.
Since winning his fifth stage at the Tour de France on the Champs Elysees in Paris, Cavendish has kept a low profile, focusing on recovering from three weeks of hard racing and preparing for the world championships. He turned down huge offers to ride criteriums and has let his rivals speculate that he will be dropped on the two short climbs on each lap in Geelong. He only broke his silence in an interview published in today's Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy.
"Are they sure they'll drop me so easily?" he asked Gazzetta with a hint of sarcasm.
"I hope to be at my very best in Melbourne and then we'll talk about it…"
"When I knew Britain only had three places, I was disappointed. But Max Sciandri reminded me that the worlds is a strange race. In the past riders have won it with only a few teammates."
Cavendish rode the Tre Valli Varesine and then the Coppa Bernocchi one-day races in Italy last week to test his form before starting the Vuelta on Saturday. He didn't finish the hilly race around Varese but was third in Bernocchi behind Manuel Belletti (Colnago-CSF) and Danilo Hondo (Lampre-Farnese Vini).
"The Tour was very stressful and riding criteriums isn't my idea of taking a break. I preferred to stay in Tuscany and switch off completely. And eat! I've put a bit of weight on…" he admitted, shrugging off being beaten by Belletti.
"It was a hard race and my teammates had worked to pull the break back, so I was on my own in the finale. I tried to take advantage of the work done by Garmin for Farrar but Fischer didn’t do a fast lead out and so Belletti was able to come from behind and surprise us."
Cavendish will target stage victories at the Vuelta, knowing that day-after-day racing and sprinting is the best way to prepare for the world championships. He has been getting in long rides in Tuscany to replicate the distance of the world championships and has done speed work behind a scooter with Sciandri.
"My goal is to do well in the sprints and the Spanish race is the best way to prepare for the world championships," he said.
Cavendish has a contract with HTC-Columbia for 2011 but there has been speculation that both BMC and Team Sky were interested in signing him.
HTC-Columbia team owner Bob Stapleton has extended the contracts of Cavendish's key lead out men Mark Renshaw and Bernhard Eisel but it seems he has yet to convince Cavendish to sign a new deal that will keep with the US team beyond 2011.
When asked by Gazzetta dello Sport if he has signed a new contract with HTC for 2012, Cavendish is reported as saying: "No. I've got a contract and I'll race with HTC in 2011. For the future, we'll see…"