Cyclingnews will have live coverage of Milan-San Remo from 8am GMT on Saturday, March 19.
Mark Cavendish has a strong chance of taking his second Milan-San Remo title this weekend; that’s the opinion of his team manager Brian Smith. After winning the Madison world title on the track earlier this month, the Dimension Data general manager believes that Cavendish is riding himself back into road form and just in time for the monument.
“It was difficult in the first couple of days, and obviously, the crash that he had at the Madison didn’t help. He came down really hard,” Smith told Cyclingnews. “I think from now on you’ll start to see Mark Cavendish getting even faster. The numbers he’s producing now are on the strong side. He’s on good form now. He just needs to get that road speed, and I think that we’ll start to see him get more results from now on.
“I believe for Mark that there are wins in Grand Tours for him [this season], and I believe that he is going well enough to look at Milan-San Remo as well. What Mark is lacking at the moment is that explosiveness in the finish, but he’s got the experience that counts.”
Cavendish spent the early part of the year on the track before beginning his road season at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. He went on to take a stage win and the overall classification at the Tour of Qatar in early February. Cavendish was back on the track for the World Championships at the start of March, immediately followed by Tirreno-Adriatico. The team had hoped to back him for victory on the penultimate stage, but he missed out when a break including Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet got away.
The victories might not be as easy to come by as they were in past seasons but there is much bigger fish to fry later in the year. “Cav has got a big year; it’s a long year. If he doesn’t win anything more than a couple of Tour stages and Olympic gold and the World Championships, everyone would be hailing Mark Cavendish as the best, and that’s what our goals are,” said Smith. “At the moment these young guys are coming in and beating him, and everyone is wondering what is going on with him. This is a very difficult time of year for him transitioning between the road and track.
“We know where we are with Cav, and we’re so happy to have him on the team and what he brings to the team as well. He’s involved in the meetings and the positive vibe that he brings to the team and the experience. We’re confident that he can win but some of the talent that is coming in… He has to rise and do what he has to do, but he can’t be sidetracked by what they’re doing.”
Cards to play for Milan-San Remo
Dimension Data have plenty of options for Milan-San Remo, however, and Cavendish may find himself working for the team’s other leader Edvald Boasson Hagen. The Norwegian has had his best start to a season in a long time and looks set to improve on his 10th place from last year. Smith also picks out Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg as another potential option in the finale, with Stephen Cummings a wildcard in the pack.
“He’s already beaten guys like Van Avermaet, and I think that he can beat Sagan, so in him, I think we’ve got a serious contender. With his Norwegian champions jersey it’s all about how they play it around him,” Smith told Cyclingnews. “Milan-San Remo gets very nervous, and there are lots of crashes, we’ve just got to make sure that we’ve got numbers over the Cipressa after that, we’ll decide what our options are in the final. One thing, I don’t think that we’ll be allowed to do is to get into the breakaway, like we did last year.”
Boasson Hagen joined Dimension Data last season when it was called MTN-Qhubeka. While he enjoyed a strong finish to the year, he suffered some bad luck during a disappointing classics season for the whole quad. Boasson Hagen was one of the many riders to come down in the wind-affected Gent-Wevelgem, breaking his collarbone in a crash. With a clean run this time around, Boasson Hagen and the team are hoping for much better rewards.
“I think that Edvald is one of the best Classics riders in the world, and that’s why I wanted him on the team. He went to Team Sky and did tremendous things with them, but he’s a winner,” said Smith. “Team Sky got the best out of Edvald but over the last couple of years, his motivation went. Edvald is a winner, and he had very few opportunities for himself. Now he’s older, wiser and stronger. When you look at Edvald’s Classics, he hasn’t got a great palmarès but I think this year if he stays healthy, and as he is then I believe that Edvald will win a Classic this year.”
Milan-San Remo takes place on Saturday, March 19, with the Cobbled Classics resuming at Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday, March 23.
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