Mark Cavendish was upbeat and happy after ending his road racing season with a tenth and final victory on the last stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour. He will ride the London Six this week and then the Gent Six, both with Bradley Wiggins, before he can finally enjoy a vacation but Cavendish revealed he was able to produce his rare double-kick sprint on the Yas Marina motor racing circuit and so win at speed ahead of Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) and Elia Viviani (Team Sky).
"I'm very happy to end the season with a win, especially in such a tremendous setting, as it was getting in the dark on Yas Marina circuit. It's a special way to close out the Abu Dhabi Tour and to close out the whole season," Cavendish said before going on to recall every detail of the sprint.
"Everyone was motivated even though it was fast in the finale. But my Dimension Data teammates did a tremendous job. They controlled the break well, even if I thought we'd have more support from the other sprint teams. But Bernie (Eisel) went with 1.5km to go and then Mark Renshaw. Was cool and calming in the finale. A Giant rider, I think it was Koen de Kort, came by and it as easier to let him and it give me more breathing for the sprint. He couldn't hold Mark's wheel, so I did a track move, ran up on him to get some extra speed for the sprint. Winning also meant I kept the green points jersey too."
In a moment of reflection, Cavendish hinted at some of the difficulties he has overcome to target major goals on the road and the track in 2016.
"I'm happy with it, I had big targets this year, I achieved them or came very close. Ideally I'd like to win everything I do, that's my nature, but I did my best this year. Team Dimension Data was brilliant this year too. We had something like 40 this year, that's big for our first year in the WorldTour," he said.
"If you look at the percent of win conversion it's pretty big, i ride 90 days and win 15, it's one and six, but if I race 60 and win 10, it's still one in six. I didn't race that much this year but I'm still happy with how it's gone. And to think: second in the worlds and seconds in the Olympics is not that bad."
Cavendish won his first road race at the Tour of Qatar in early February, then switched to the track to target the omnium and win as world title in the Madison with Wiggins. He returned to the road and won four stages at the Tour de France before taking a silver medal in the omnium at the Rio Olympics. He then returned to the road for the final part of his complex and demanding season, taking another silver medal and second place in the World road Championships behind Peter Sagan.
It has been a complex and demanding season as Cavendish switched disciplines. Some people questioned his decision to do it all but he seems to have few regrets and is not resting on his laurels, even as the 2016 season ends.
"I had careful planning and great group around me but if it was the right thing to do is something I'm not prepared to talk about it," he said defensively as whenever a question from the media raises any kind of doubt about his ability.
"Dimension Data let me take time miss racing to concentrate on the track. But we knew I'd come to the Tour de France with good form at the Tour de France. That's the biggest stage and best way to represent the sponsors. I'll have time to look back over my career when I retire, for now I want to just keep looking ahead."
Empathy with Crutchlow, back for more in 2017
Cavendish talked about his friendship with Moto GP professional motor bike pilot Carl Crutchlow and how they had joked about bike racing on a motor racing circuit. Cavendish revealed the two their friend is special due to sharing a love for speed and living 'full gas' but also due to both living in high performance sports in the public and media spotlight. Cavendish admitted Crutchlow was 'mad' on descents and always competitive when they train together.
"He's my best friend. He's one of the few people in a similar situation to me; he knows when things are good and when things are bad. He seems to have the same type of chip on his shoulder, he feels he always need to prove himself," Cavendish said.
"He's a massive cyclist, he could be pro when he trains hard in the winter. He couldn't win Tour de France stages, but he's better than a lot of the professionals out there now, that's for sure. He's crazy but seems to have calmed down a little now he has a baby daughter. You can see that in his results, he's won two Motor GP races. I'm the first person to turn on the Moto GP when it's on and he's also there supporting me."
Despite an intense, racing packed 2016, Cavendish admitted he will have little time for a vacation and quiet winter. He plans to do a lot more road racing in 2017 to pay back Dimension Data for their support in 2016 when he spent long spells with the Great Britain tack team.
"It's not going to be quiet, I'm going to be doing more road racing I own the team a lot for their support this year and want to pay them back," he said.
"The demands of road and tack are different; I always use the analogy about Andy Murray switching from tennis to squash. In 2017 those demands are going to be easier but it's still going go be a big old year hopefully."
Before thinking about 2017, Cavendish is looking forward to racing on the track for one last chunk of his 2016 season. He appreciates that riding with Wiggins as he ends his career will be special if perhaps hard, especially on the historic Gent track.
"I love the track," he said.
"It's going to be hard. And Gent is know as being crazy hard, the demands on the riders are a lot. The track is also steeped in history. A lot of great riders have ridden there. To be riding with Brad as World Champions is special, it'll be like back like the Merckx and Sercu days. There are always a lot of British spectators there and I love racing in Belgium. I got close to winning with Iljo Keisse a couple of years. I'd like to win it this year. I'm not done yet for 2016."
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