Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) is back on the bike after crashing out of Tirreno-Adriatico. The sprinter spent 45 minutes on the home trainer on Friday, but a final call on a possible return at Milan-San Remo will not be made until early next week.
Cavendish crashed in the opening time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico, and despite finishing the stage he was eliminated on time. He was later diagnosed with a broken rib and sustained superficial cuts to his body and face. He was in form before the fall, and Milan-San Remo – a race he won in 2009 – was originally on his programme. The broken rib, however, still needs time to heal, and Cavendish is facing a race against time.
"We're in contact and he was on the rollers yesterday for around 45 minutes," Dimension Data's Rolf Aldag told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 4 of Tirreno-Adriatico.
"It's going to come down to a strategic decision. We'll ask, 'What's the point?' Do you make him ride just or to try and score a result? It's good qualified doctors who can really tell you. You can ride with broken ribs but how successful can you be? To my understanding, it's not a danger to ride, but I finished the Tour de France twice with broken ribs and for me, it was just about riding from point A to point B.
"Is that something we want Mark to do? We'll keep all the doors and options open for him but right now we can't decide what makes sense. It's too early."
While Dimension Data do have options for Milan-San Remo, the loss of Cavendish is a significant blow. He won the race in 2009, and despite not making the podium since then, the race remains dear to him. If he is fit and ready he would still be a contender for victory in a race that is incredibly hard to win. For Aldag, and for Cavendish, the bigger picture will be making sure that the team's marquee sprinter returns to full health in a season that has more than one objective.
"We don't have several other potential winners, so that gives us time and we're in daily contact," Aldag said. "We'll see what he wants to do and not force him to do it, for sure. It's not about having a big name at the start. Sure the reports would look great but what's the point of having him just ride along the Mediterranean sea and leave out the Poggio. He'd only go if there was a chance of him performing. We wouldn't send him there to be dropped."
Cavendish has had to return from a number of setbacks in the last 12 months. This time last year he was dealing with a virus, and despite starting the Tour de France he was forced out after a crash. He returned this year and scored a win at the Dubai Tour. A crash at the Abu Dhabi Tour, caused by a race vehicle, left him with a concussion.
"The form is good," Aldag said. "We saw him string out the team in the team time trial. He was definitely good, but he's been trying to fight and come back for almost a full year. At this point in 2017, he didn't know but he had that virus. It wasn't diagnosed until after Milan-San Remo. Then he crashed out of the Tour, he was taken out of Abu Dhabi by the car's electronic brake system and then he crashed here. It's been tough, and other people would really struggle mentally, big time, but we'll wait until after Paris-Nice and then Monday we'll make a call."
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