Mark Cavendish was a surprise late entry for the two-day Giro della Toscana and the Coppa Sabatini but the Manxman told Cyclingnews he was happy to be racing near his base in Tuscany rather than against most of his world championship rivals who are in action at the Eneco Tour.
Cavendish handled the late climb in both stages with ease and finished seventh on stage 1 and then a close second to Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) today at the end of stage 2. He was disappointed not to win and vented his anger and waved his hand briefly at Bennett for moving his line but accepted it was all part of high-speed sprinting.
"I'm fine with second today. I'm happy, my form is good and team's riding well," he told Cyclingnews. "I had to back off when Bennett moved a little and then I was in the rough but that's all part of sprinting. I'm happy with that. I trained all weekend and before these races and so I've worked hard. It's important for Worlds."
Cavendish is focused on preparing for the road race in Doha on October 16. He knows he can now do little to help Dimension Data win enough WorldTour points as the African team fights to stay in cycling's highest division in 2017. That is up to Edvald Boasson Hagen, who leads the Dimension Data squad at the Eneco Tour. He is chasing overall success and WorldTour points.
Cavendish was expected to ride the Eneco Tour and go up against his world championships rivals but opted for a different plan.
"There are two simple reasons why I decided to ride the Giro della Toscana. One is that it's near my home in Quarrata and two, as a team, we need WorldTour points," he told Cyclingnews.
"There are only six points on offer for a stage win at the Eneco Tour and so that wouldn't change anything on our team's position in the rankings, so it's better if we target the general classification with Edvald. By riding the Giro della Toscana and the other one day races in Italy, I can pick and choose my schedule depending on how tired I am and to suit my build-up for the World Championships."
Cavendish was not keen to discuss the risk that Dimension Data could be relegated to Professional Continental level in 2017 and so depend on wild card invitations to WorldTour races. He knows it all depends on the WorldTour points scored at the end of the 2016 season with the UCI deciding on the number of places in the 2017 WorldTour.
"I don't know, we'll have to see, it's not down to us," he said. "We just have to try and get points where we can. There are a lot of points up for grabs at the Eneco Tour and so Edvald is going for that. I'm happy in the team. We'll just have to wait and see what happens. It's difficult to say anything until a decision is taken."
On form for the World Championships
Cavendish was happy to refresh his Italian when speaking to the media at the Giro della Toscana. He will use the final one-day races in Italy and then perhaps Paris-Bourges and Paris-Tours to prepare for the World Championships.
"I'm feeling really good and I was excited about my form yesterday," Cavendish said, seemingly surprised about his level of road racing fitness after only riding the Tour of Britain since competing on the track at the Rio Olympic Games.
"I know the roads and it even passed my house, so that gives you an extra boost and extra advantage. I thought I was going to get over the final climb. I climbed better than I thought I would and that is a good sign of my form as the Worlds gets nearer."
Cavendish confirmed will target Sunday's Gran Premio Bruno Beghelli race near Modena in central Italy. The 196km race ends with ten laps of a rolling circuit but Sonny Colbrelli won the sprint in 2015.
"I'm going to ride the Coppa Sabatini in Peccioli near Pisa on Thursday and then the Gran Premio Bruno Beghelli on Sunday. I was even going to ride the Giro dell'Emilia in Bologna on Saturday but it ends on a climb and so I'll rest up and try to win Beghelli, which is more suited to the sprinters."