Cavendish skips Giro to ride California

HTC-Columbia manager Bob Stapleton announced overnight that Mark Cavendish will skip this year's Giro d'Italia (May 8-30) in favour of the Tour of California, which runs May 16-23; concurrent to the season's first grand tour.

The 24-year-old won four stages of last year's Giro before taking six stages at the Tour de France. While he didn't win the sprint classification in 2009, he'll ride the Tour of California instead of the Giro to maximise his chances of winning it in 2010.

"We are also pleased to have Mark Cavendish back in winning form," said Stapleton in a 'Friends and Family' release. "Infections resulting from dental work in December undermined his training and delayed his start of the season. He won his first race of the season in Cataluña last week.

"We believe Mark will be very strong at the Tour de France and the balance of the season. He will join the team in California and we are very optimistic about his chances for success there."

Cavendish delayed the start of his season due to the aforementioned dental problems, and crashed in the final stage of Tirreno-Adriatico. While he didn't sustain any lasting injuries, he didn't feature in Milan-San Remo, where he was defending champion. It's hoped a preparation with less racing may assist him in this year's Tour de France and avoid exposing him to more mishaps.

It was announced that Michael Rogers will also ride the Tour of California; the Australian has displayed great form in recent races, including Milan-San Remo (where he attacked late in the race on the Poggio) and the Critérium International, where he finished third in the final stage time trial and second overall. He'll be HTC-Columbia's road captain and aim for a solid general classification performance.

Stapleton also welcomed back Australian rider Mark Renshaw, who was pivotal in Cavendish's success in last year's Tour de France. The sprinter will return to racing this week after making "a solid recovery from the Epstein-Barr virus".

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