Mark Cavendish with Italian football legend Gianluca Vialli at the special Giro d'Italia presentation in London.
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Manxman hopes for at least four sprint stages in Italy
Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) has confirmed that he will ride this year's Giro d'Italia, the first of three Grand Tours that he will ride in 2011.
Speaking at a special Giro d'Italia presentation with race director Angelo Zomegnan at the iconic Bar Italia in London, Cavendish suggested there were at least four stages that he could target in the first part of the race.
"I love the country, the Giro and the passion of the race. I had some great success in the Giro and other races such as Milan-San Remo in 2009. They're some of my fondest memories, so it’s great to go back there and race," Cavendish said.
"It's a beautiful Giro this year and it starts with a team time trial. We won the team time trial in 2009 and I got the maglia rosa and won three other stages. It was a special race for me and so it's back on my programme. To get some results would be incredible."
This year's race starts in Turin on May 7 and ends in Milan on May 29. The race will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, visiting 17 of the 20 regions of the country, including Sicily in the far south, before the final ten days in the Dolomites and the Alps.
It was suggested that seven stages could finish in sprints. Cavendish reckoned there would be four, with a chance of one or two others.
"For me there are less than seven. There are definitely four sprints and another one or two that could be sprints," he said.
"They are all in the first half. The first one is the first road day after the team time trial. Then another but they're not easy. Looking at the Livorno finish, there's a climb but it should be a sprint. The finish in Tuscany could be a battle between Bennati and Petacchi, the two Tuscans. That'll be important for me. Then there's stage eight and then stage twelve."
"But we're going for much more than sprint wins. We've got a strong team and so we're going for the team time trial too."
Cavendish won two stages in the 2008 Giro d'Italia and others in 2009. He rode the Amgen Tour of California in 2010 but seems happy to be heading back to Italy in May.
"It was a really important moment in my career," he said.
"I did the Tour in 2007, it was my first Grand Tour but it wasn't that successful. The Giro in 2008 was the first Grand Tour I finished and I got two stage wins. It was a massive boost racing 21 days solid and winning and racing against the best guys in the world. It was a really big stepping stone to who I am today. It helped make me what I am."
Cavendish travelled to London from his base in Quarrata in Tuscany. He now speaks some Italian and loves the passion that Italians have for cycling.
"Angelo [Zomegnan] likes to include little climbs and corners and that makes it hectic but everything is relaxed around the race. It's more relaxed than other races, there's great scenery, great food and… the ladies too. It's exciting for everyone to ride it."
Cavendish insisted that his form is good for Milan-San Remo. He will ride the Strade Bianche race on Saturday and then Tirreno-Adriatico as final preparation for the Classicissima. After riding some of the cobbled classics, Cavendish will focus on preparing for the Giro d'Italia.
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