Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) returns to the Tour de Yorkshire on Thursday with the aim of tasting success. However, the 30-time Tour de France stage winner was understandably cautious when asked about his chances at the pre-race press conference in Leeds on Wednesday evening.
Cavendish has not won a race in over a year, and is still returning after a long break due to Epstein Barr Virus, which derailed almost two years of his career. After easing himself back into racing this year at the Vuelta a San Juan, the 2011 world champion picked up a third place finish at April's Tour of Turkey – a result that sparked belief that the 33-year-old could be returning to something near his old self.
The Tour de Yorkshire may not have a mountain stage in its four-day route, and the field only has four WorldTour teams, but it is still an extremely difficult race to control. The rolling roads invite aggressive racing and with few top sprinters in the race, Cavendish's Dimension Data squad is unlikely to enjoy much support in chasing breaks to set-up the Manxman for a sprint finish.
Cavendish's experiences of racing in the region are not ideal either. He crashed in Harrogate during the first stage of the 2014 Tour de France and was forced to abandon, while his outing at last year's Tour de Yorkshire saw him leave the race on stage 4 without a win.
At the pre-race press conference in Leeds, the British rider's morale seemed to be on the up, although he was realistic about his chances.
"Of course, I'm excited to be back and racing the Tour de Yorkshire. It's a place I used to spend a lot of time as a kid, and I've always had such an incredible welcome here. It's a special race," he said.
"In terms of how I'll go, I don't know. It's a difficult course here and we're coming with a mixed team. Nic Dlamini obviously won the King of the Mountains title at the Tour of Britain last year. This is a race where we want to get him up there. We have a couple of sprints early on, and we've brought guys who can ride a sprint, but it's not necessarily a sprint team. We'll try, and I obviously want to be successful at home."
Cavendish lines up alongside his long-term support riders, Bernhard Eisel and Mark Renshaw, and with the team still sitting on just two wins this season, a win in Yorkshire could kick-start the squad's campaign.
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