Mark Cavendish begins the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race tomorrow in central Italy and enters the last phase ahead of Milan-San Remo. He aims to become the first cyclist in nearly 30 years to win the classic with the World Championship's rainbow jersey.
"This jersey is special for me," he said in a pre-Tirreno press conference. "I said in 2009 when I won Milan-San Remo that I want to return to win it in this jersey. The last one to do it was [Giuseppe] Saronni."
Italy's Saronni won the Worlds road race in Goodwood in 1982 and raced the 1983 season in the striped jersey. In March, he won San Remo and in May, three stages and the overall at the Giro d'Italia.
Cavendish won the Worlds last year in Copenhagen and already scored in the Tour of Qatar and in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in the jersey. This year may be his only chance to win San Remo as World Champion.
"This year," he added, "it's important."
Since winning Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on February 26, Cavendish has turned his attention south. He explained, "I always like to race in Italy."
Despite expecting a baby girl in three weeks with fiancée Peta Todd, he has been training in Italy. Yesterday, he rode the final 100 kilometres of Milan-San Remo. The race, on March 17, covers several smaller climbs and two bigger ones, the Cipressa and the Poggio, before the finish along the Ligurian seaside.
"I feel ready," Cavendish explained. "I felt good on the climbs, I felt good on the descents."
The week-long Tirreno-Adriatico will polish off Cavendish's training. The race starts tomorrow with a team time trial and features two likely sprint stages in the subsequent days. Afterwards, the course climbs, reaching 1450 metres at the end of stage five.
Cavendish won his one and only stage in Tirreno in 2009 before going on to win San Remo. He will try to take another win in stage two or three and, thinking of the Cipressa and the Poggio, use the later stages to "get some training."
"If we can start off with a successful first half," he explained, "then I can use the end as final preparations for next week."
He will remain in Italy after the race to focus and to finish his training for his dream Milan-San Remo win.
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