Mark Cavendish may have won 14 races so far this season but there are still plenty of suggestions the 30-year-old is slowing down with age. In an exclusive interview with Cyclingnews, Cavendish explained his numbers show he is as fast as ever but changes in technology, sprint trains and stage finishes have all contributed to people suggesting otherwise.
"My numbers say I am [the fastest]. One advantage I used to have was obviously when we were all wearing jerseys and open helmets, the size of me and my position was a massive advantage over everyone else," Cavendish told Cyclingnews in Abu Dhabi. "Now a big guy gets a bigger percentage gain out of wearing a skinsuit than what I get. Ok, I am still more aerodynamic wearing a skinsuit then [Marcel] Kittel is wearing a skinsuit. If you look at the amount of power he saves, it's a bigger percentage."
Cavendish further elaborated on the prevalence of skinsuits in the peloton, his Etixx-Quick Step team regularly race in the aero option instead of the traditional jersey and shorts combo, explaining he started at the top level of the sport at the right time.
"I think I am still as fast it’s just how things have changed," he said. "I feel stronger. My characteristics as a rider, I was in the right time to work and maybe it’s slightly different for my characteristics to work as well as they used to."
The 30-year-old detailed how the Tour de France sprints have changed since he made his 2008 debut at the race.
"It's not really more sprinters, it's just more dedicated teams," he said of whether there are more sprinters then when he started in the professional ranks. "I’ve never gone to the Tour de France with eight guys to ride for a sprint. I’ve never done it, I’ve never wanted that. It’s a big ask to have eight guys all for the sprints. I like to have eight guys who can ride in a sprint train but always like to be successful throughout the Tour de France. One, it takes the pressure off you a little bit. Two, it gives a real motivation to the riders who go to the Tour de France.
"Now team do go with at least seven guys for a sprint without any other job. Ok, maybe I’ll go with seven guys who can do well in the lead-out but they can ride well in the mountains and go for their own stage or go in the breaks."
Cavendish added the slow death of 'traditional' sprint finishes at the Tour had also affected his ability to claim bags of four and five stages in the one Tour.
"I remember 2008-2009, sprints used to be big long, straight, wide roads. They were sprints. A sprint day was a sprint day and a hilly day was a hilly day. You had a sprint and it was about power about a team, it was a sprint," he said. "Now, it’s either a roundabout in the last 600 metres, twisty little finishes, maybe even slightly uphill. All bar one of the sprint finishes at the Tour de France this year was on a gradient."
Asked how then how Cavendish rates his season so far, the Manx missile' explained while he was personally content that fact that he has been so successful since 2008 14 wins isn't considered a great year.
"I’ve won 14 races so I am pretty happy. Ok, I’d probably like to win more at the Tour de France but overall as a whole, Etixx-Quick was pretty successful there. We had bad luck obviously losing Tony but we had a successful Tour de France and we are happy with that," he said. "I’d like to maybe be a bit more on it now at the end of the season instead of not knowing with my shoulder but I am happy with my year actually.
"In years when I won 20 races, I still think I could have won more races and like to have won more but I am content with it."
Listen to this week's Cyclingnews podcast, with the full Cavendish interview, below or download it to your device from iTunes, and click here to subscribe to the podcast so you get it first.