Mark Cavendish shrugged off questions about his early season form, his sprinting speed and his chances of winning a stage at the Dubai Tour, attempting to deflect any expectations before he makes his season debut with Dimension Data in the five-day race in the Middle East.
Cavendish has planned a more gradual start to 2017 after his well-documented and very intense season on the road and the track last year. He kept racing until the Gent Six and went on holiday when other riders were already back in training.
He also pointed out that 2017 is his 11th season in the WorldTour ranks. He believes he has the experience to judge his form and his results, even when he perhaps loses a sprint. He also knows how to swiftly sidestep any questions he doesn't like as quickly as he passes his rival in sight of the finish line. The silent pauses between his thoughts were as revealing as his carefully chosen words.
"I'd like to win a stage but…. But I'm not starting my season in September to win here. I was still racing at the end of November," he told the media that gathered around him after the official Dubai Tour press conference.
No pressure in early season races
Cavendish accepted the comparison that the races in the Middle East are like pre-season games in other sports. The Tirreno-Adriatico sprints are perhaps his playoff, with Milan-San Remo his Super Bowl.