Cavendish shows his form with Dubai Tour victory

Manxman back to his best and focused on Milan-San Remo

Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick-Step) headed home from the Dubai Tour with two sprint wins, the overall victory and confirmation that he has laid some solid foundations for a great season ahead.

Cavendish has total conviction about his own ability and quickly dismisses questions that may put his ability in doubt. “Cav is Cav”, as good friend Max Sciandri once said to succinctly describe his unique ability and personality. And while Marcel Kittel may have dominated the big-race sprints in 2014, Cavendish proved in Dubai that he has fully recovered from his Tour de France crash and shoulder injury, and that Cav is back to doing what he's done since 2007: winning high-speed sprints.

“It's nice to win a GC. Especially when all the days weren't flat stages,” Cavendish said while still wearing the blue overall winner's jersey in the post-race press conference.

“It was a small group (at the finish on Hatta Dam on Friday) and I worked hard over the winter. It looks like we've formed a good group here and with the riders I had with me in Argentina. I'm super happy with my form and with the commitment of the Etixx-Quick-Step team. I'm looking forward to having a successful year.”

Cavendish has now won 123 races during his career. But the Dubai Tour is only his third stage race victory, making it special. He also liked the way his Etixx-Quick-Step team dominated the sprints after doing much of the hard work chasing the breaks and controlling the peloton.

“I'm super happy. It's nice to win but winning is not new. What makes this so special is that Etixx-Quick-Step rode from the beginning of the race on Wednesday until the finish today. The majority of the work was left to us and the lads rode out of their skins for four days,” he said.

“Yesterday (Friday) wasn't a stage for me but we honoured the jersey and rode hard. The lads stayed with me and helped me and kept me in distance of winning overall. We wanted the jersey back and the lads rode with fire in their eyes today. It was a phenomenal display all day, not only the lead out. I didn't do anything, so I'm incredibly grateful to the lads for this win. We deserved this.”

Cavendish was back with trusted lead-out man Mark Renshaw in Dubai and singled out the Australian for special praise after they dominated the final sprint. Etixx-Quick-Step set up Cavendish perfectly in the final kilometres and then Renshaw pulled him ahead of the rest of the sprinters, giving the Manxman time to look around and surge away to victory, despite going long into a headwind.

“Renshaw is the guy who calls the shots. He stays really calm and takes the pressure off me,” Cavendish explained.

“I thought someone would jump early and so I looked around before I jumped off Renshaw's wheel. We had a gap and it was a headwind, so I was going to go later. But when I saw we had a gap, I went for it. If I left it longer they could have gotten a run at me from my slipstream, so I had to go early so that I still had a gap and stop them taking slingshot off me. It was nice to see they were behind me.”

Cavendish was asked about taking on Marcel Kittel in sprints this year but insisted he is focused on his own sprinting and focused on winning, rather than worrying about anybody else.

“As always with the same question, its the same answer....” he said not afraid to push back against questions he considers irrelevant.

“It doesn't really matter who is my rival, my job is to win bike races. Etixx-Quick-Step goes to races and tries to win and it doesn't matter who else is riding.”

A trophy for the team

Cavendish posed with the unique Dubai Tour winner's trophy designed by Pininfarina and posed for an official photograph in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa skyscraper. He was keen to take the hoop-shaped trophy back to Europe but wanted to share it with the Etixx-Quick-Step team.

“I don't have many trophies in my homes, I prefer photos of my family. But this is a special one,” he said.

“It's a beautiful trophy made by Pininfarina and it's also a special win for me. We have a museum in the team's service course, so it'll probably go there. The team deserves it because they won the race.”

Cavendish had already revealed he likes to holiday in Dubai and is in favour of Gulf countries hosting major races as part of the further globalisation of professional cycling.

“I think the globalisation of cycling is extremely important for the sport. But it has to be done right,” he said, showing a clear understanding of the problems of professional cycling.

“Races like the Dubai Tour do it right. Some races didn't quite work and it messed things up in the season. We need good short tours like this, that are growing and moving up. It's definitely stepped up this year as a race. It's definitely moving in the right direction and in countries where cycling is becoming popular. I think it's what cycling needs.”

Cavendish heads back to Europe on Sunday and will continue with his busy sprint race programme as he targets Milan-San Remo. He will be back in action next weekend, before heading to South Africa and then Italy to get ready for La Classicissima on March 22.

“I do Murcia and Almeria next week, then Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, then the Cape Argos event (in Cape Town), then Tirreno-Adriatico. And then Milan-San Remo obviously,” he concluded.

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