Mark Cavendish will have to sort out his sprint train in 2014. Six months after a melt down, Omega Pharma-QuickStep has plenty of lead-out options available. Alessandro Petacchi joined mid-season and Mark Renshaw, Cavendish's faithful helper at Highroad, announced he signed for next season.
"The train will be stronger, for sure," Petacchi told Cycling Weekly. "We have different characteristics. We both know our moments, when one is going stronger and he can let the other take over the job. That's going to be important for Mark [Cavendish]."
The Italian joined Omega Pharma in June after briefly retiring. In his career, he won multiple Giro d'Italia and Tour de France stages, and the green points jersey in the latter.
He had never led out a sprinter in his career. However, he proved he could do so last month in the Tour of Britain, where they won three stages.
"Whoever is in your wheel has to put faith in you," added Petacchi. "You have to do what you can to put him in the best position. That's important for me to show, as I did in Great Britain. We worked well together. We did three sprints and three wins, that's important for the team and morale. Clearly, though, it was different than sprinting in the Giro or Tour."
Cavendish and Omega Pharma lived through tense moments this spring when its sprint train appeared off track. The low point came when it failed to pull off a win at the Scheldeprijs, where 'Cav' already scored three times before.
During that same period, Petacchi retired and left team Lampre-Merida. Omega Pharma, according to the team and rider, soon got in contact and convinced him to return as domestique deluxe.
"It's been a great opportunity. After I decided to quit they gave me this opportunity with them and Mark," Petacchi continued. "Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do the Tour with them, but... I'll get through the season and then plan for next year. I hope to have another chance to do so again, to race the Giro and Tour with Mark."
Cavendish and Omega Pharma's top brass will have to meet this off-season to configure its train. According to Petacchi, they gave him a significant contract through 2014. However, Cav already relied on Renshaw's lead-out to pick up the majority of his Giro and Tour wins. The two raced in Highroad, Bob Stapleton's team, from 2009 to 2011. After the team disbanded, Cavendish joined Sky for a brief one-year stint and Renshaw struck out on his own at Rabobank, now team Belkin.
Omega Pharma announced on August 1 that the duo would be re-united in 2014. "Of course, after a couple of years apart, riding on the same team as my good friend Mark Cavendish again is something I am going to enjoy," Renshaw said at the time in a press release. "It will be great returning to lead-out duty's fighting for victories with Cav. Hopefully we will celebrate many wins with him and the rest of the team."
To get those wins, Renshaw and Petacchi may need to play musical chairs. Renshaw's arrival, however, could see one of the former sprint great relegated to third-last man in line.
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