With a demanding finale on the Cauberg and many well-prepared Classics riders taking part in Sunday's World championship road race, defending champion Mark Cavendish has admitted that he will most likely have to say farewell to the rainbow jersey he won 12 months ago in Copenhagen. The British rider told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad that he had no chance of defending his title.
"The chance of retaking my world title is non-existent," Cavendish was quoted as saying by the paper. "Ten times the Cauberg is just too much for me. We have to be realistic."
The nine-man Great Britain may thus have to follow a different race strategy in order to stand their ground against major nations such as Belgium, Spain and Italy. While the national squad still has to be officially confirmed, nine riders have been named: Mark Cavendish, Steve Cummings, Alex Dowsett, Chris Froome, Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard, Ben Swift, Jon Tiernan-Locke and Bradley Wiggins.
"I can't win, but I'm here out of respect for the jersey and because I'll be wearing race number one. I always enjoy racing in the colours of the national team. You're not doing it for money, but for your country - that is special," Cavendish said, before hoping that another rider of his Team Sky trade team could take the world title on Sunday: Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen.
"Boasson Hagen would be a nice successor. He'd deserve it. He's a great mate and a damn good rider," Cavendish said.
Cavendish has worn the rainbow jersey with pride, knowing his sprint victory last year secured him an important place in cycling history.
"Every rider who wants his name in the history books of cycling has to be world champion at least once. If you'd asked me on my 14th birthday if I'd rather win 23 stages of the Tour de France or become world champion, I'd have said: become world champion," he said.
"The Tour means a lot to my career, but as world champion you wear the most beautiful jersey ever for a year. The rainbow stripes have something magical. All great champions have worn them."