Dubai Tour: Cavendish can beat Kittel, says Holm

Etixx-QuickStep directeur sportif on seeing Cavendish and Kittel go head to head

Brian Holm endured mixed emotions after Marcel Kittel beat Mark Cavendish to win the opening stage of the Dubai Tour.

The Danish directeur sportif rightly celebrated Kittel’s first victory with Etixx-QuickStep as the German blew away any doubt about his recovery from his difficult 2015 season. However, after working closely with Mark Cavendish for several years, sharing the highs and lows of the Manxman’s career, Holm admits he’s still close, despite now being in rival teams.

Holm was linked to Cavendish’s move from Etixx-QuickStep to Dimension Data but eventually stayed with the Belgian team and is now working with Kittel.

“It was strange to see Mark sprint against my new man Kittel,” Holm told Cyclingnews before the start of stage 2.

“It was good for him to win but I was also happy to see Cav do well even if he didn’t win. I saw that Cav came from pretty far back after fighting for the wheels. I’m sure he’s going to win his races this year and results can change even in the sprints here, Cav could beat Kittel for sure.”

There were rumours that Holm and Cavendish had fallen out after their ‘divorce’ but the Danish directeur sportif quickly puts the record straight and posted a photo of them together on Twitter, describing Cavendish as his ‘good looking stepson’.

“We’ll always be friends and always keep in touch, even if we’re now on different teams,” Holm explained. “It was always an honour for me to work with him. I think Freddy Maertens was the best sprinter ever in the history of cycling but Cavendish is right up there with him. Of course, it’s not that we always agreed about everything but he’s like my stepson or something. I think we’ll be good friends for the rest of our lives.”

Holm knows what makes Cavendish tick. He understands his sprinting ability and his mental strength, and was often able to combine them to achieve some incredible results. He admits he is still getting to know Kittel but likes what he sees so far.

“Now I’ve got know him he seems a really nice guy. But everyone is nice at training camps and early-season races. You see people’s real character when you lose the big sprints at the Tour de France, when you f*ck up in the first sprint. That’s when you get to know your riders. Knowing riders takes a few years,” Holm points out.

“We always said we’d find out in the first races and he’s proved he’s back. There was clearly something wrong with him last year.”

Cav and Kittel seem different. I always knew that with Cav you could do the impossible. Some of the best wins we got were when people said we’d never win. We won like that at the 2013 Giro d’Italia, after a hilly 230km stage. But Cav was on great form and wanted it, so we rode all day and he finished it off. A normal sprinter would never do impossible stuff like that. We’ve done it at the Tour de France a few times.

“Sometimes Cav loses but you can never crack him in the head. He’ll always come back. He’s been written off so many times over the years but he always come back. I’m sure he’ll be back to his best and winning again this year too.”

Holm is focused on getting the best out of Kittel and the Etixx-QuickStep lead out in Dubai and in the rest of season. He was pleased to see the ‘blue train’ ride so well on stage one and perfectly set up Kittel.

“I think our train is bit stronger than Dimension Data,” he said with pride.

“We did a lot of work but not more than anyone else. Everyone works damn hard in pro cycling now. These guys train and live like monks 24 hours a day. There are small margins between first and second in sprints now. It’s down to lead outs most of all. I think the blue train we have a bit of an advantage. And Kittel is bloody strong too. Now I know that sure.”

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