He dominated the sprints at the Tour de France. He won an Olympic medal in Rio and became a world champion on the track with Bradley Wiggins in the Madison. Now Mark Cavendish has turned his focus towards winning his second world title on the road in what has already been a highly successful year for the 31-year-old Dimension Data leader.
Currently racing at the Tour of Britain, Cavendish has spent the majority of this last week honing his form and working his socks off for teammate and friend Steve Cummings, who is on the verge of sealing the overall. The British sprinter is also using the home race as his first test after Rio, and with the Worlds roughly a month out, he tells Cyclingnews that he is on track for Doha.
"The Worlds, I want to win the Worlds," Cavendish says with no hint of arrogance but the confidence of a man who knows his capabilities and his ambitions.
"I don't think anyone has ever won the track and road Worlds in the same year so to be able to do that would be quite a big thing. We've got the team to do it."
As in in Copenhagen when Cavendish won his first road title in 2011, the course in and around Doha is flat and tailored to the sprinters. The potential cross-winds throw up one considerable hurdle but Cavendish believes that he will have the team around him to succeed. The belief from Denmark is still ingrained in the team, he says, and the calibre of rider around him is well suited to both the long stretches of desert and a sprint.
"Listen, I don't think I could go and win the Worlds if I was on my own," Cavendish tells Cyclingnews. "I think that with the team we have now, the riders we have in Great Britain, I truly believe that we'll be the strongest nation going to win the World Championships this year."
Cummings, Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard, Luke Rowe and Alex Dowsett are part of a 14-strong long list that will be whittled down to eight support riders for Cavendish in the coming weeks as road coach Rod Ellingworth puts the finishing touches to the team.
After an already long season, mental freshness will be just as, if not more, important than physical perfection.
"We know we can do it this time and that's the biggest thing," Cavendish says as he compares 2016 to Copenhagen.
"I think that belief, that it's been done and we know that we can do it, takes a bit of pressure off. And everyone had built in. It has been a bit hard, especially after an Olympic year because it can be easy after the Tour and the Olympics to have end of season blues. To keep everyone motivated has been the toughest challenge but we're great. We've got a group that has grown up together and we're racers. There are a few guys who were there in Copenhagen and there's a lot of young guys also coming through. But we've got 14 guys who we know can go in any particular order and in a special way. That's something we didn't think was possible a few years ago and something that we're very lucky to have."
Cavendish's own form is on schedule, if not ahead of where he expected it to be after Rio. After the Games, while most riders took a week off to sit on a beach or catch up with the real world, Cavendish knuckled down and recalibrated for his next mission. He took just three days off the bike and headed to the Isle of Man for a block of training that carried him right up until the start of the Tour of Britain.
The eight-day stage race has provided his legs with another important segment of road miles. He missed out on the only actual bunch sprint of the race so far on stage 1 when he was taken out in a fall, but since then he has devoted his attention to working for Cummings as Dimension Data set about retaining the overall crown Edvald Boasson Hagen won in 2015.
"I'm actually better than I thought I'd be. I didn't know my form before the race and I could have been even better, I don't know, but I trained hard and didn't really have a holiday after the Games," he says.
"I went to the Isle of Man and put in some hard graft right up until the Tour of Britain so I didn't put in any recovery. I'm still carrying a bit of fatigue here but I've dealt with it well and I'm looking forward to the Worlds. It's five weeks out but I'm on schedule."
A monumental season
At the start of the year, British Cycling and Cavendish gathered a select group of media to the velodrome in Manchester where he outlined his plans for the season. They were lofty, by anyone's standards, but certainly achievable for a rider who has won 30 Tour stages and has always tried to raise the bar.
A Worlds Madison title was secured in the spring and a Tour flew by that included four stage wins before Rio and a silver medal behind Elia Viviani in the Omnium. While most sprinters have concentrated on the road, Cavendish burdened himself with road and track ambitions. Some argued that the duality would help his sprint speed while others suggested he had stretched himself too thin. With just one major goal left this year the former camp have all the evidence they need to back their argument, yet what has impressed more than the wins themselves is Cavendish's ability to switch focus from one discipline to another throughout a constantly demanding season.
"It's just management, and really, it's time management," he says.
"Focus is just something that I do and I don't really know any different. I've always been thrown in and had to perform throughout my career anyway. In fact it's probably made it easier, the fact that it's been between road and track, at least on my mind. On the body it was pretty difficult to do because the demands of both are so different. The Omnium is such a varied amount of disciplines that it takes a lot of commitment across the whole board. With the head I could keep myself fresh by dipping between the two because they're quite different sports."
Cavendish moves at such high speeds that he is rarely afforded time to dwell on his success or his losses. This year he has changed teams and something has been rediscovered in his racing – he's having fun and combined that with ambitions.
"It's been a special year without the victories," he adds.
"I'm part of a great team and one that does things not just to win but also for a good cause in Qhubeka. I'm having a lot of fun again. I'm 31 years old and I'm finding that I've got a lot less pressure. Considering that I had such high goals for the year I do feel like I've got less pressure. Ultimately that's come through my results but also the whole team. I'm proud to be part of that."
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