Mark Cavendish confirmed on Twitter he had been suffering with a nasty stomach virus for several days but gritted his teeth to start Tirreno-Adriatico and used the opening time trial to test how he was feeling. He finished 30th, 12 seconds behind winner Adriano Maori (Movistar) but wanted to test his legs by going as hard as he could.
“I’m feeling better but I’m not 100 per cent. I’ve been bad for four days,” he told Cyclingnews as he warmed down from his ride.
“I’m quite happy with my time considering but I felt weak and I didn’t have that usual power through the muscles. I wanted to see where I’m at and actually I think I’m okay. I’m recovering for sure. I’m getting over it.”
Cavendish and his teammate and leadout man Mark Renshaw came down with the virus during a trip to South Africa last week to attend a team sponsor event. They also competed in the Cape Town Cycle Tour mass participation ride and race on Sunday despite being ill.
Before travelling to South Africa, Cavendish showed he was on form by winning the Dubai Tour and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, beating his big Milan-San Remo rival Alexander Kirstoff (Katusha). The Manxman admitted that he now has some doubts about his form but knows that riding Tirreno-Adriatico will be vital if he is to recover his form and sprinting speed for Milan-San Remo.
“I’ve been ahead of where I wanted to be all season. I haven’t been nervous about anything and I knew I’d done the work to win when going into the races. Now after the trip to South Africa and getting sick, I’m a little bit nervous for the first time this year,” he said.
“It’s maybe better to have it now than in a week’s time but I came here despite being sick. If it’d been a different time of the year, I’d probably have missed it but I had to come here. I need it for Milan-San Remo. If I get through the first few days, I can use the rest of the race to get better and prepare for Milan-San Remo.”
Thursday’s second stage of Tirreno-Adriatico from Camaiore to Cascina is expected to end in a sprint. Cavendish may still have a go if he is feeling better but warned that he could opt to miss the sprint and focus on full recovery.
“I haven’t got the explosiveness I should have. Maybe we’ll try and miss it,” Cavendish said, sending a clear message that the other sprinters’ teams will have to do the work and chase any attacks during the 153km stage.