Mark Cavendish’s HTC-Columbia directeur sportif Brian Holm believes the Manxman could find two unlikely allies in his 2010 and 2011 world championship bids – in the form of Tour de France green jersey rival Thor Hushovd and fellow HTC-Columbia fastman cum foe Andre Greipel.
The road race courses in Geelong later this year and Copenhagen in 2011 are widely thought to suit Cavendish, but his hopes in the former have been dealt a blow by the news that Great Britain might be allowed to field only three riders in Australia on October 3.
Speaking at the Tour of Denmark, Holm told Cyclingnews that this could leave Cavendish looking to pool interests and resources with riders like Greipel and Hushovd.
“I could easily see him doing something with Norway and Hushovd, who also want a sprint but won’t have a huge team, or with Greipel and Germany,” Holm said. “People have been talking this year about the battle to be the best sprinter in the world, and if they all work together for that, we could have it in Australia.”
While this year’s point-to-point Worlds course from Melbourne to Geelong has divided opinion as to the likelihood of a bunch sprint, Holm sees a Cavendish win as a possible outcome in Copenhagen – though not on the runway finish people might imagine.
In what may be a good omen, Cavendish’s HTC-Columbia team-mate Hayden Roulston yesterday won the final stage in Denmark on the same course that will host the 2011 Worlds.
“The Copenhagen circuit is pretty flat, but there’s a little climb up to the finish, so the sprint is uphill,’ Holm said. “It’s more of a climb than the finishing straight in Madrid five years ago. It’s more like the Bosberg in the Tour of Flanders, but without the cobbles. Cav shouldn’t have a problem though. People always say he won’t get over climbs, but look at stage 13 of this year’s Tour, where only that late attack from Vinokourov stopped him winning in Revel, or his penultimate stage win in 2009, after a Cat 2 climb.”
Holm himself will be racing in Copenhagen on Monday night, at a criterium organized to raise funds and awareness of children’s cancer issues by his La Flamme Rouge charity. A survivor of testicular cancer in 2004, Holm set up La Flamme Rouge shortly afterwards with the aim of providing an inspirational message for sufferers engaged “in a battle similar to, but infinitely harder than the one which starts under the 'flamme rouge' marking the last kilometre of a bike race.”
Joining him on Monday will be, among others, his old friend Jesper Skibby and the former football hardman Stig Tøfting, once of Bolton Wanderers.
Also on Monday, six bikes designed by Holm and another illustrious acquaintance, fashion designer Sir Paul Smith, will be auctioned online by La Flamme Rouge on behalf of the larger Danish cancer charity OmSorg. Only eight of the full-carbon, Principia-framed bikes have been produced – and the two not for sale from Monday belong to Holm and Smith. The auction will last for ten days.
Holm’s friendship with the British style icon, once an aspiring pro and now an avid fan, goes back several years. Last week, Holm recalled the unusual circumstances which led to their meeting.
“One day, in about 2000, I was with Bjarne Riis buying shoes in Copenhagen and he pointed to a pair with Paul’s logo on them,” Holm explained. “Bjarne said “Ah, I know that name,” to which I sarcastically replied, “Congratulations…he’s world famous”. “No, no,” Bjarne said, “I recognize the signature from a letter I got after I won the 1996 Tour, asking for a signed jersey.’ I couldn’t believe it. I asked Bjarne whether he’d replied or sent something. Of course, not exactly being a member of the fashion police, he said he hadn’t. “What the f**?!’ I said. ‘It’s Paul Smith! He’s world famous! You total knit!’
“Anyway, as soon as I could, I put a yellow jersey in an envelope and sent it off with my business card. I didn’t hear anything but then, a few years later, I got a message saying that I must come and have lunch with Paul at the Tour of Britain. I ended up going with another good mate, the former British rider Paul Watson. Since then, Paul and I have become good friends and worked on a few things together. He texts me constantly for info about what’s going on at races. Even this week, he’s been texting me about the Tour of Denmark…”
Bid for the Paul Smith and Brian Holm-designed special edition Principia bikes here.