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Cavendish returns to action at the Tour of Denmark

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British champion Mark Cavendish leads Polish champion and Omega Pharma-QuickStep teammate Michal Kwiatkowski

British champion Mark Cavendish leads Polish champion and Omega Pharma-QuickStep teammate Michal Kwiatkowski (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) won a hard-fought stage 13

Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) won a hard-fought stage 13 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Mark Cavendish will be looking to get back to winning ways when he lines up at the head of a strong Omega Pharma-QuickStep team at the Tour of Denmark, which gets underway on Wednesday.

Although Cavendish won two stages at the Tour de France, he was outshone by Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) in the bunch finishes and suffered his first-ever loss on the Champs-Élysées to boot. The six-stage Tour of Denmark is Cavendish’s first competitive outing since, and the race ought to include several bunch finishes.

“Andy Fenn and Mark Cavendish should have a chance to win a stage, as Denmark always ends up in a few bunch sprints,” said Omega Pharma-QuickStep directeur sportif Brian Holm.

Cavendish and Fenn will be joined in the Omega Pharma-QuickStep line-up by Stijn Vandenbergh, Iljo Keisse, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Frantisek Rabon, Martin Velits and Julien Vermote.

As ever in Denmark, the threat of crosswinds adds a degree of unpredictability to the race but Cavendish and his Omega Pharma-QuickStep team showed their mastery of such conditions on stage 13 of the Tour de France, when he won the sprint into Saint-Amand-Montrond from an echelon of 14 riders.

Holm has backed Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s rouleurs Frantisek Rabon and Martin Velits to perform strongly in Saturday’s short time trial in Holbæk but warned that they must be careful not to get caught out in the crosswinds and the short, sharp climb on the preceding day’s stage if they are to make an impact on the general classification.

“You never know what's going to happen with the crosswinds at Denmark so you need to be awake,” Holm said. “Normally, the big battle will be Friday. It's 200km from Sonderborg to Vejle, the longest stage by about 20 kilometres. Then Saturday there is the 12.3km time trial after a 100km road stage.

“I think Frantisek Rabon and Martin Velits have a fair chance to do a good job in the GC. I spoke to them about how they are going to have their chance. But we have to pay attention to the steep little climb on Friday's stage. Normally, there's about 10 riders at the finish if the race doesn't spread out due to the crosswinds.”

Not surprisingly, Holm expects home team Saxo-Tinkoff – whose forcing sparked the decisive echelon when Cavendish won at Saint-Amand-Montrond during the Tour de France – to be very prominent at the Tour of Denmark.

“Saxo-Tinkoff is always very motivated. They're very strong and always creating a good race by pulling in the crosswinds. They're normally the team to beat. But we will do our best with a strong team for good results," Holm said.

As anticipated, Omega Pharma-QuickStep will be without Tom Boonen, who is suffering from a saddle sore. Buoyed by his first official win of the season at the Tour de Wallonie last week (he also won the Heistse Pijl kermesse in June), Boonen will line up at the Eneco Tour, which gets underway on August 12.