Omega Pharma-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere has declared himself wholly unconcerned by Mark Cavendish’s winter condition, pointing out that the important thing is that his sprinter is on top form come the opening stage of the Tour de France on July 5, still six months away.
In a tweet ahead of Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s December training camp, Cavendish told followers that he was aiming to lose some weight, playfully adding that this particular titbit would be “bait for lazy journalists”.
That tweet and a subsequent photograph of Cavendish togged out for winter training duly sparked the interest of Gazzetta dello Sport, who wondered whether the Manxman’s first sprint of 2014 would be “against the weighing scales”.
The question was given short shrift by Patrick Lefevere. “I’m not very interested in what Mark weighs right now. I’m interested in him winning the first stage of the Tour de France in England on July 5 and wearing the first yellow jersey,” he told Gazzetta. “We can also say that he’s not 1.9 metres tall, so it’s more noticeable if he puts on five kilos. But there aren’t any problems.”
Lefevere’s point was backed up by Omega Pharma-QuickStep directeur sportif Davide Bramati, who warned of the folly of using photographs as a gauge of a rider’s condition.
“Maybe it’s the fault of the British champion’s jersey, which is white, a colour that makes you appear heavier,” Bramati said. “I know that Mark has already arrived in Spain ahead of the next training camp. For me, he hasn’t gained any more weight than he did in the same period last year. He’s very motivated and ready to start winning again.”
Indeed, on that point, Cavendish has already pre-empted any external concerns about his condition, by claiming his first, unofficial win of the new campaign on the Isle of Man over the Christmas period. In a windswept local hamper race, Cavendish forced the winning move with Pete Kennaugh (Sky) and Mark Christian (Raleigh) before taking the three-up sprint for victory.
Cavendish’s early-season condition seems to be a perennial talking point, yet with the exception of 2010, when dental problems delayed his start to the season, the Manxman’s record in the opening weeks of the campaign is a formidable one.
For instance, he began his 2013 season with stage victory at the Tour de San Luis, and then followed up with four stage wins and overall victory at the Tour of Qatar. Cavendish will return to the Tour de San Luis this year, before lining up at the new Dubai Tour from February 5-8.