Mark Cavendish will continue to centre his season around the Tour de France in 2014 but he will probably have a gentler start to his season compared to this year and may not ride the Giro d’Italia, Omega Pharma-Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefevere has told Cyclingnews.
Cavendish hit the ground running in 2013, winning the Tour of Qatar - his second stage race win of his career - and multiple stage wins before going on to dominate the sprints at the Giro d’Italia and take his first ever points jersey victory there, completing his set of Grand Tour points classifications after also winning the special classification at the Vuelta a España in 2010 and at the Tour de France in 2011.
“Of course Mark had seen the Tour route and knew about the start in England and we’re really delighted with it. I’m sure that his season will be totally focused on the Tour de France,” Lefevere told Cyclingnews.
“We have yet to make a definitive schedule on his races, but we had dinner in Paris before the Tour presentation and already we’ve decided that he will have a quieter start to the season then building up 100% for the Tour de France.”
Asked if that ruled out another high-speed start to his year, Lefevere said: “He’s a sprinter; he’s never going to want to stop winning. But you can do a strong start to the year and then go on to the Tour at 100 percent. Actually I think he may rest from half-way through April to half-way through May and then build up to the Tour and not do the Giro.”
However, no definitive decision has been taken on whether Cavendish will or will not race Italy’s Grand Tour. It would be his first absence since 2010. And Lefevere rubbishes the idea that Cavendish went too deep in the Giro in 2013.
“That’s an overly simple a way of looking at it. Of course he went deep at the Giro, he was going for the points jersey and he wanted that badly,” he explained.
“The issue [looking at the Tour afterwards] is more how far you ‘drop off’ from your top level of performing in the month that follows. If it’s 60 percent [of top form] it’s too much, 80 percent it’s too little. If it was 70 percent, then I think we’d be fine for the Tour.”
Arguably the key change that will influence Cavendish’s 2014 is the return of Mark Renshaw, his successful lead-out man until 2012.
“With Renshaw, [Alessandro] Petacchi and [Geert] Steegmans there, we’ll have a lot of opportunities,” Lefevere predicted.
Like any team manager with a world class sprinter in his squad, Lefevere is disappointed that race organiser RCS Sport has added an extra climb in the finale of Milan-San Remo, tipping the race firmly in favour of the classics riders and perhaps out of grasp of sprinters like Cavendish.
“Mark is an unusual guy. Sometimes he surprises everybody at how good he can become in that sort of hilly terrain. But to be honest I think everybody is disappointed at the decision to change the race route there,” Lefevere said.
Future plans for Kwiatkowski
One of those riders who seems to shine on all sorts of terrain is young Polish rider Michel Kwiatkowski. The 23-year-old reigning national champion performed above expectations in the Tour de France, finishing eleventh but also led Tirreno-Adriatico after its hardest mountain stage and clinched top five finishes in both the Amstel Gold Race and Fleche-Wallonne. Asked whether Kwiatkowski is a future stage racer or Classics rider, Lefevere answered, with a laugh - “good question.”
“We don’t know the answer yet and I think he doesn’t know the answer either,” he explained.
“Maybe we’re going to try for both, but with fewer races than in 2013 and more targets. For sure he’ll want to do a strong start to the season, similar as this year, and then come back again for the Grand Tours.”
“We’d do it a bit differently in the Classics, though, for sure if he did Flanders, say, then he’d probably stop after Amstel Gold.” -where he took fourth in what was just his second participation, this April.
The Omega Pharma-Quick Step race plan is still a work in progress. It has not yet been decided if Rigoberto Uran -second overall in the Giro d’Italia this year, or if Tom Boonen -who had a very difficult season due injury and a saddle sore, will ride the Tour de France in 2014.
“For Rigoberto we were also speaking about a possible combination of the Giro and Vuelta, too, but we will decide for sure in the first training camp in December. The Tour is a possibility, too,” Lefevere revealed.
“For Tom, of course, when a rider sees the [recently published Tour 2014] route and sees the pave stage they get more enthusiastic and that’s good because if you aren’t enthusiastic then you don’t know why you ride. But there’s a huge difference between your thoughts and the reality of July. In Tom’s case, we’ll see how he’s going at the start of the season.”
Making up for losing Chavanel
Omega Pharma-Quick Step appears much stronger for 2014 but Sylvain Chavanel’s move to IAM Cycling is a definite loss.
“I saw in L’Equipe that he said he lost a lot of opportunities to win races here but I totally disagree with that,” Lefevere said.
“If he could win a big race it could have been in our team, but in any case he will be sole leader in his new squad, and I wish him the best of luck with that. It’s been hard for us to go our separate ways because he’s not just a great rider, he’s a great person. And after five years it’s not easy to say goodbye, and I look forward to seeing him out there on the roads.”
No Grand Tour goals for Tony Martin
Tony Martin remains with the team in 2014 and is again world time trial champion but the powerful German will not be a general classification rider for the Grand Tours.
“He’s surely not going to go for GC classification,” Lefevere said bluntly.
“In the past people thought he could do this but if he tried to change his strategies and do that then he would be less strong in the time trials and I am not convinced he can drop Quintana and Froome in the mountains. So we have to think hard about Tony, we want to keep him going in the time trials and maybe do something in the one-day races.”