Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) has laid the pressure of expectation on the back of Tour de France green jersey winner Michael Matthews to take the victory Sunday at the RideLondon Classic. The Team Sunweb sprinter won stages 14 and 16 at this year's Tour on his way to winning the points competition handily over Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), who will also be on the start line Sunday in London.
"We've all seen Michael riding really well in the Tour, so he's going to be on a roll," Cavendish said in an interview published on the race website. "He's got all the confidence from the Tour going into this event."
In the Tour, Matthews benefited form the absence of Cavendish, who broke his shoulder in a crash during stage 4, and five-time jersey winner Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), who was disqualified for his actions in the same sprint. Matthews inherited the green jersey when Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) abandoned after crashing heavily during stage 17. Arnaud Demare (FDJ), who wore the jersey for three stages, finished outside the time limit on the stage to Chambéry.
Cavendish, who won the London Olympic Warm-Up Race on a similar course in 2011 and competed in the RideLondon Classic in 2015, said the 200km course lends itself to a bunch kick one the peloton gets the breakaway on the long run to the finish on The Mall.
"If every team comes with a set-up to help their sprinters, any one of them can do it," he said. "There is such a long run-in to the finish on The Mall that the race can always come back together, as we saw last year."
Still recovering from his broken shoulder, Cavendish will miss the race this year, but he'll be close to the action as a commentator for BBC, ready to call the final kilometre.
"I know if I was competing, we'd be ready for a sprint," Cavendish said. "I'm gutted not to be riding, to be honest, because it's such a great course. It is the best one-day race in the UK, and one of the biggest in the world."
Following Cavendish's win in 2011 and a skipped year in 2012 for the Olympics, Demare won in 2013, followed by Adam Blythe in 2014, Jempy Drucker (BMC Racing) in 2015 and Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) last year.
Greipel, who was recently second on the Tour's final stage on the Champs-Elysées last Sunday, will also be in the field, as will Britain's Ben Swift, who has twice finished on the podium at RideLondon, and 2016 Paris-Roubaix winner Mat Hayman.
Looking on the bright side of Tour crash
Despite being knocked out of the Tour de France and breaking his shoulder before he could add to his tally of 30 career stage wins, Cavendish is focused on replicating his ability to return to a high level of competition after just six weeks of training following his recovery from mononucleosis caused by the Epstein Barr Virus.
"I think I take the positives from everything I can," Cavendish said of the incident. "I made the Tour in just six weeks and was confident I would win a stage by the end. I believe I would have won that stage and that would have started the sequence. Unfortunately, I was in a position to be taken out. But that's bike racing."
Cavendish said that he is riding again on the indoor trainer, and the 2011 World Champion didn't rule out making another run at the rainbow stripes in September's World Championships in Bergen.
"I may never again reach the absolute top, like I was before," he said. "But I’m older now, so I have to look at things with a depth of focus. I know I can still win bike races for a long time to come."