Mark Cavendish (opens in new tab) will kick off his 2022 campaign at the Tour of Oman (opens in new tab)on Thursday, heading up the QuickStep-AlphaVinyl (opens in new tab)squad for the six-day race alongside their GC hope Fausto Masnada.
The Manxman has raced in Oman three times before, with one of his 156 career victories coming on the final day of the 2011 edition. With three likely sprint stages in this week's race, he'll start his season battling the likes of Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), and Amaury Capiot (Arkéa-Samsic).
Cavendish’s start to 2022 was delayed by after he crashed heavily in the Gent Six-Day and was hospitalized for several days with a collapsed lung and broken ribs. He then suffered a traumatic assault when burglars broke into his home and threatened him and his family. He has recently spent time at a second QuickStep-AlphaVinyl training camp in Portugal after the team's traditional camp in Calpe, Spain.
He is looking forward to discovering his racing form at the race, which he said he had be unable to fully judge until he was in competition with other sprinters.
"I think everybody coming into a new season looks forward to starting to see their shape," Cavendish explained to the media in Oman, including Cyclingnews.
"You don't really know. It doesn't matter how you're going until you compare yourself with the other people."
The 36-year-old will hope to begin the new season with a win this week and will have the likes of Iljo Keisse, Stijn Steels, and neo-pro Stan Van Tricht to work with in the sprints. He said that his team have brought a versatile squad, including 2021 Giro stage winner Mauro Schmid, in order to handle the flats, hills, and possible crosswinds of the week ahead. However British neo-pro Ethan Vernon will not ride the Tour of Oman after a knee problem emerged and forced him to delay his debut.
"We're here with a group that can come work okay, across all terrains," Cavendish said.
"[There are] possibly three sprint opportunities this year, but we have Masnada for the GC. It's a big climb up Green Mountain and you have to come prepared for all terrains, you know. It's not an easy a few days here.
"But it's a brilliant preparation race for the bigger races coming up. It's nice here in Oman – I've been here a few times and I enjoy the race. It's a beautiful place to ride."
QuickStep-AlphaVinyl's GC leader Masnada is, on paper at least, among the top favourites for the race which features the Green Mountain summit finish as well as an uphill finish at Qurayyat and another hilly stage to Muscat's Royal Opera House.
He said, however, that he had yet to check out his possible rivals on the start list, which include the on-form Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates), Elie Gesbert (Arkéa-Samsic), and the Intermarché-Wanty Gobert duo of Rein Taaramäe and Jan Hirt.
"Honestly, I didn't check the other teams or which kind of riders there are here already," he said.
"But for sure a team like DSM [Henri Vandenabeele and Kevin Vermaerke] or Arkéa-Samsic [Elie Gesbert] have strong climbers that will be in front in the final."
The Italian, who finished his 2021 season with a second place at Il Lombardia, did say that Green Mountain would be the major GC flashpoint of the race, though.
"I never been to the Tour of Oman so I don't know yet about the climb. Everybody told me that is a hard climb and the climb that decide the general classification of the race.
"Of course, we'll also have some different kind of stages with probably some strong winds, so we need to be concentrated for all five stages. We have Cav for a leader for the springs and I will try to do my best in the mountains."
Daniel Ostanek (opens in new tab) is at the Tour of Oman for Cyclingnews will have full race coverage, interviews and news.
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Daniel Ostanek is production editor at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired as staff writer. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.