Etixx-QuickStep sprinter Mark Cavendish will use the Tour of California as part of his build-up to the Tour de France, his team announce today. The Manxman will mark his return from a short break from competition at the Presidential Tour of Turkey, together with Tom Boonen, who is making a comeback from a fractured elbow and shoulder injury sustained in Paris-Nice. Boonen will then go on to participate in the Giro d'Italia for the first time in his career, rather than race in California.
Cavendish used the same schedule last year, and came into the Tour de France on good form, but was unable to live up to the expectations of his home crowd after he crashed in the finish of the opening stage in Yorkshire.
"Last year it was a successful period with victories at Tour of Turkey, Tour of California, and Tour de Suisse," Cavendish said. "I also went into Le Tour with a really good feeling. But unfortunately I crashed in the first stage, so everything was over in a second. Of course it's a pity."
In 2013, Cavendish won the points classification in the Giro d'Italia before going on to win two stages in the Tour de France, though he missed out on the green jersey there. Last year he won four stages in Tour of Turkey and two in California. So far this year, he has the overall victory at the Dubai Tour and a Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne win to his name.
"I don't like to miss the Giro, which is a key race that helped me build up my career. I have great memories of that race and I hope to come back to the Giro in the future and do well again. But as of this year I want to focus on the optimal preparation for the Tour de France, and going into the races to return to the high level of performance I had at the beginning of the year."
Although Boonen is in his 14th season in the WorldTour, he has never before raced the Giro d'Italia, and will tune up for that effort with a first-time appearance at the Tour of Turkey. It's a refreshing change after a promising start to the season, including a third place in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, before a Paris-Nice crash knocked him out of the Classics.
"I'm very excited to start the next part of the season," Boonen said. "It will be nice to go to the Tour of Turkey, a race I've never done before and see what happens. For sure I will be suffering a little bit, but it will be useful for the Giro. As for the Giro, I'm happy to be at the start for the first time in my career to support the team strategy in function of Rigo [Rigoberto Uran]. This is also a really nice new experience for me. I haven't raced a lot in Italy in my career due to conflicts with my big objectives. Now, I have that chance. I know I have a lot of supporters in Italy. The Giro has great tradition and it will be great to race there and fight for the Maglia Rosa together with Uran."