Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) returns to home roads this Sunday as the Tour of Britain kicks off. The Manx Missile has had a busy few weeks with the birth of his second child and his continuing bid for an Olympic spot as he raced at the GP Dudenhofen.
Despite this, Cavendish looked relaxed at the team presentation as he cracked a few jokes on stage and dutifully signed a mountain of autographs before sparing a few moments for the media.
“I’m alright, it’s nice up here. It’s better weather than I left in London and I’m actually looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s going to be nice racing and it’s always nice to see the crowds out here in Great Britain, and I love that more than anything.”
Cavendish has won more stages than any other rider at the eight-day race, with 10 under his belt, but this year’s race will provide little in the way of opportunities to add to that tally. The 2015 Tour of Britain has been billed as the hardest year yet, and Cavendish and his fellow sprinters – such as André Greipel, Moreno Hofland and Ben Swift – will only have two clear-cut chances to take a victory.
In Cavendish’s opinion, the small teams and tough roads will make setting up a sprint a tough task. “What flat stages?” He said when asked about the team’s chances on the flat days. “You’ve got two at the end of the tour and even then, with six-man teams and these distances on heavy roads.
“We tried to control the race last year and we exploded by the end. I don’t think we’ll try to do that again. There might be some teams who want to do it but they are difficult and long stages with six-man teams and the hills the way they are. I think that a break will go to the end on most days. Etixx-QuickStep has a good group of guys here and most of us are preparing for the World Championships so we’ll take our chances.”
Cavendish will also face some competition within his own team with the up-and-coming star Fernando Gaviria. The Colombian bested Cavendish on two occasions at the Tour de San Luis and is riding for Etixx-QuickStep as a stagiaire before joining them full-time next season.
“Obviously, I sprint normally but Fernando Gaviria is here, and he beat me twice at the start of the year. He’s pretty handy, he’s going pretty well and he can climb well so maybe we might go for him in a couple of days,” Cavendish said.
The Tour of Britain begins on Sunday, September 6, with a tough, hilly 177km stage from Baumaris to Wrexham.