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Steels: Cavendish is still the fastest sprinter

By:
Daniel Benson
Published:
February 19, 11:33,
Updated:
February 19, 21:10
Edition:
First Edition Cycling News, Thursday, February 20, 2014
Race:
Volta ao Algarve
Mark Cavendish congratulates Marcel Kittel after the finish

Mark Cavendish congratulates Marcel Kittel after the finish

  • Mark Cavendish congratulates Marcel Kittel after the finish
  • Omega Pharma-QuickStep protect Cavendish in the bunch
  • Mark Cavendish with his team after failing to make it to the sprint
  • Tom Steels joined in on the fun

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Belgian backs his sprinter ahead of Algarve

Tom Steels believes that Mark Cavendish and his Omega Pharma-QuickStep leadout train needed time to gel this season, but has backed the British rider as the best sprinter in the world.

Cavendish is set to take part in the Volta ao Algarve which starts today but he has not won a race since the final stage of last year's Tour of Britain. He used the Tour de San Luis to hone his form at the start of this season but came away without a win at the Dubai Tour earlier this month due to a combination of factors including Marcel Kittel's exceptional form, positioning in the sprints and what every rider fears, bad luck.

"Mark is in good form and he's really improving. Everyone always says that they need an extra race to get ready but Mark is there. At the moment Kittel is flying and he's a good rider but Mark is getting better. It's all about getting into a flow though and there's still no doubt from me that Cavendish is still the fastest one," Steels told Cyclingnews.

In his day Steels was one of the fastest sprinters of his generation, winning stages in the Tour and his national championships. He understands, more than most, the complexities within sprinting. At a training camp in Spain last month Cavendish told Cyclingnews that it can take three seasons for a leadout train to gel into a cohesive unit.

"He's always performing when he needs to. He won 20 races last year and you can’t do that if you don’t respect your own abilities and work hard," Steels added.

"Everyone on the team respects Cavendish. In cycling it's about whether you perform or not and with Cavendish everyone on the team works for him and really rides for him. He’s a leader and we're committed to him, always.

"With the leadout everyone has their own qualities and when you bring them together with two or three guys everything has to be right so there's no second option or second chance. We have to put Cavendish in the right position in order to win and that process takes times. Every race is different and there's never one clear line. It's chaotic, there's a big fight, but we need them to have confidence in each other."

Kittel's exploits in Dubai, where he won the three flat stages, had many fans and pundits proclaiming the German as the fastest sprinter. However, Steels believes that with Cavendish's major objectives coming later in the season Dubai only provided a short term snap shot.

"You have to look at things in the long term and not just over three days. Mark had some bad luck in Dubai as well so we'll have to wait for the other races. But what I've seen between how Petacchi and Renshaw have ridden together has pleased me."

The Omega Pharma QuickStep leadout has been extensively covered with Mark Renshaw having linked up with Cavendish once more and Petacchi providing his unrivalled experience into the mix since mid-way through last season. On paper it's an unmatchable combination – certainly in terms of reputation – but Steels adds that relationships between riders can take time.

"I think they [Renshaw and Petacchi] can swap but they're both high quality riders. The main thing is that Renshaw and Petacchi haven't ridden together before this year. They're different riders with different characters and styles to get into position. It's also new work for Petacchi but what we've seen at the end of last year and this year is that he uses his racing brain so well. He has so much intelligence."

"I had Zanini for a while and he was the best. He was so good I could follow him blindly. I never questioned him or his tactics and that saved me a lot energy. Mark Cavendish knows he has to do the same thing with his guys and it will come."

 

Manuel Schoel 5 months ago
Like Steels said, Dubai is not the Tour and the number of wins in February don't matter that much when you want to win in July!
happytramp 5 months ago
Except that Kittel won in Oman last year too and we all know what happened in July.
kevinzamora 5 months ago
Yeah, he won two more stages than a guy that had just finished one of the most grueling Giro's in recent years with a red points jersey and 6 stage wins on his name...
Lucifa 5 months ago
9 seconds back Cav.......................
mutschi 5 months ago
Steels feels the pressure and talks half truths to justify failure. Cavendish too. It doesn't take three year to build a good train. That's BS. Highroad didn't have three years. They won right from the start. It didn't take Lotto and Giant-Shimano three years either. Further, it is not a new job for Petacchi - he was leading out Cipolini at the beginning of his career if I remember it right. A collection of big names and top sprinters not always make the best lead-out trains. Look at Lotto and Giant-Shimano - no top sprinter in their trains, just strong guys working really hard for one leader and no ego's. I am very pleased that the Omega train doesn't work that well. It would be too boring if money and big names just buys the best train. The Lotto and Giant guys must feel thrilled giving it to Omega. I love what they do.
Edward Winkler 5 months ago
Dear Mr. Steels, prove it.
wallymann 5 months ago
i dont know...kittel was pretty convincing last july...won basically every head-up sprint against either/both cavendish and greipel, including on the champs. i want to see cavendish reassert his claim to the throne. until such time, kittle is the man, greipel #2 and cavendish is #3.
Frubberduck 5 months ago
If Kittel is #1 as he won more stages than Cavendish at the tour, how can Greipel be #2 when he won less stages than Cavendish?
maldux 5 months ago
Robbie McEwan used to win without "trains".
matt13 5 months ago
Ah McEwan, there is one gutsy rider. I miss him in the peloton.