Mark Cavendish says he had been more confident going into this Sunday's World Championships road race than he had ahead of his successful title bid in 2011. However, the Manxman says that his confidence has taken a bit of a hit after he fell ill earlier this month.
Cavendish's preparation for the World Championships was disrupted by the illness which forced him to pull out of Münsterland Giro and Paris-Bourges. He rode just one pre-Worlds race at Paris-Tour, where he finished sixth. Cavendish says that it has had an impact on his power, but he still believes he's in with a chance of taking home the rainbow jersey.
"It has affected my top-end power. Four days in bed and five or six days off training is less than ideal. Before I was ill, I had more confidence than I did going into Copenhagen with my form, and the strength that we have as a team," he told a handful of press on Friday evening.
"It has knocked my confidence, being sick, but I wouldn't be here if I didn't think that we could win. But I was pretty convinced that we had the best opportunity a few weeks ago. The form is ok, we've got to have a try, and I'm lucky that I've got the strongest team in the race."
If Cavendish were to win on Sunday, it would put him in an elite group of one. It would make him the only British two-time holder of the rainbow jersey, and he would be the first male rider to win world titles on both the track and the road in the same calendar year. Beryl Burton achieved that success in 1960 winning the road race title and individual pursuit title, while Belgian rider Yvonne Reynders completed the achievement the year after.
"That's the thing that appeals the most," said Cavendish. "A world title is a world title, regardless of where you're from. I'm proud to be British and I'm proud to represent the GB jersey. I have so much respect for the rainbow jersey that to be able to pull on two in the same year would be pretty special. I can't take it for granted as a given that I'm going to be even close to getting a medal. You've just got to go out there and race. There are a lot of strong teams here, but luck can play quite a big factor. We've got to race the best that we can and we’ll see what happens."
Sunday's race will be an arduous trip through the desert heat up to Lusail, where the team time trials began, and back down to the Pearl. The elite riders have had a chance to watch the younger riders tackle the course under racing conditions. The under 23 men and junior women races both ended in reduced bunch sprints, while the junior men's race saw a breakaway go to the line.
Having seen the races, Cavendish believes that it's going to be a hectic finish and staying out of trouble may just be a case of luck over tactics.
"You can't take much from a junior race but the under 23s, it was just on a circuit so I don't think that it will be the same as them but it was interesting to see how the final laps went," he said. "The thing that we're most looking at isn't rivals because we want to take the race on, we want to be in control, but with all these hotdog turns the final lap is going to be mayhem. Even if you're in front, someone braking late into one of the hotdog turns and hitting you from behind is going to be a big factor of luck. I think that luck will be a big factor in the final lap as much as positioning and tactical nous.
"I think [the wind] will play a factor. I don't think that it will create a small group going to the finish, but I think that it will create groups that will come back together. What group you're in may decide how fatigued you are in the final sprint."
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