By Shane Stokes in Manchester
Mark Cavendish will get his world championship campaign underway on Friday evening when he competes in the men's points race. The 22-year-old is now best known as a road rider, having had an excellent season with T-Mobile in 2007, but his background is in track racing. He was world Madison champion with Rob Hayles in 2005 and took the European points race title that same year; he also triumphed in the 2006 Commonwealth Games scratch race. Earlier this month he won the British Madison title with Peter Kennaugh.
Aside from chasing world championship medals in the points race and Madison, there are two big motivations for Cavendish here. The first is competing on home soil; although he's from the Isle of Man, he's spent a lot of time in Manchester and will enjoy the full support of the local fans. The second is because he has targeted the Olympic Games track races as a major target this season. Riding well this week will advance things towards that goal.
"The plan here is to do the points race and the Madison," he told Cyclingnews. "I feel okay. I haven't done much track preparation so I won't know until the day itself. But I've got confidence that my form is good. I just have to put it to use now.
"Being in Manchester does not add pressure, it just makes it more enjoyable. The fact that this is a world championship means there is going to be pressure anyway, but being in Manchester is a boost. It gives a definite advantage because there is a great motivation to ride well here."
After Friday's points race, Cavendish will join up with Bradley Wiggins for Saturday's Madison. The two competed together in some six days over the winter and after an uncertain start, their pairing improved. He feels that there's still some work to be done, but the potential is there. "We still haven't got things fine-tuned," he admitted. "But we'll just have to see how it goes. We are both physically capable, so we'll just see how it works out technically."
Cavendish has had a solid season thus far, but has yet to clock up an international victory. He's gone close on a number of occasions, including crossing the line first on stage six of the Tour of California but then being relegated due to pacing after a crash. His form is good, though, and he feels it is only a matter of time.
"I think there should have been three wins on the cards already, but they haven't happened due to various causes," he said. "My form is good, I've got a decent form. My sprinting is good. I worked on it over the winter, I don't know why… I didn't think I needed to, but it has actually paid off. I don't think I'm [just] a top sprinter now, I think that I am one of the best."
His post-worlds schedule will depend on how he fares here. "Depending on how things go, I will see how much track preparation I need to do," he explained. "If I don't come out of this very well I will probably spend about a month on the track before the Olympics. But if it is okay, I will see if I can get on the Tour team again.
After the Worlds wrap up, Cavendish will have little time to recover before heading back out on the road next week. "My next race is De Panne, then I will do the Giro. We will see how that race goes…I'm definitely doing the Giro, we will see how it goes and decide about the Tour."
Whatever he does, his competitive nature means he will be chasing big wins, both on road and on the track.