Mark Cavendish, Sky kit 2012

Here comes a good, old-fashioned British-Aussie rivalry. Mark Cavendish's big goal for the first half of the season is Milan-San Remo, where he will come up against the race's defending champion and the "only rider he fears right now in a bunch sprint": Matt Goss.

"When he's on form, he's incredible. He arrives so fresh, he can climb well and he's clever on the bike," Cavendish said in a press conference in Doha this evening.

When Cavendish says he fears a rider, you sit up and take notice. A bastion of self-confidence, he isn't given to deference for the sake of it.

Cavendish knows full well how threatening former leadout man and teammate Goss is. The Australian offered a hint of such menace at the world championships, finishing second to the Manxman.

Cavendish's desire to win Milan-San Remo again has only been hardened by claiming the rainbow bands. "I said two days after I won in 2009 that now I want to win [again] in the world champion's jersey," he said.

The 26 year old is set to race the Tour of Oman (February 14-19) and Tirreno-Adriatico (March 7-13) as build-up.

He also pinpointed Ghent-Wevelgem, which falls eight days after the year's first Monument, as another target.

No Flanders or nationals for Cav

With his baby daughter due in early April and a focus on the Tour and Olympics in a hectic five-week summer patch, some races have got to give for Cavendish.

According to his coach Rod Ellingworth, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are unlikely; Cavendish is currently a reserve for the Scheldeprijs.

He is also set to miss the national championships in June. "At the minute, it's a no," Ellingworth told CW. "I've already pre-warned the organisers: 'I don't think you're going to get a lot of the top British lads, because of the Olympics.'"

As for the here and now, and performing at the ongoing Tour of Qatar after his illness?  "I think it's going to take a few days to get over a virus. I'm still feeling the after-effects, but day to day should be better and better," Cavendish said.

SPOTY nerves

A tumultuous off-season for Cavendish culminated in receiving the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award in late December.

Cavendish said: "Anyone who knows me knows I'm a bit of a control freak... I can tell you I've never been as nervous as I was at Sports Personality. I get really nervous when things are out of my control."

The Manxman has emerged from a winter which could have been a fitness-hampering whirlwind of media commitments and promotional appearances in better shape than ever, as his management company and coaches worked together to perfect his schedule.

Cavendish welcomed the structure that Team Sky brings. "I spoke to some of my old teammates, saying their new teams are so relaxed. To be honest, it's the opposite at Sky. There's a set way of doing things.

"I believe I've been on the best team in the world the last five years; to see how Sky operate... it feels like you've been amateur the last few years [in comparison]."

Ellingworth: mature Cav

Speaking to CW this morning, coach Rod Ellingworth said his charge was in "fantastic shape, four or five kilos lighter than usual [at this point in the year]."

He also pointed to a more mature Cavendish in the wake of his world championship win. "I think he's settled down a bit more at home, he's got a kid on the way."

"But as a bike rider now, he feels satisfied, he's achieving everything he's wanted to achieve.

Winning that rainbow jersey was a massive objective of his, right from a young kid, it's what he's always wanted to do," he said.

Contador: no comment

The elephant in the room, let alone the race today, was the Alberto Contador case. But Cavendish fielded no questions on it.

Team Sky press officer Nick Howes read out the following statement at the beginning of the press conference:

"We don't really have any huge comment to make, other than we're glad the decision has been made, it's just disappointing that it's taken so long to reach it.

"Team Sky are a performance team, that's our main focus and we just want to look to the future now. That's all we have to say on the matter."

Related links
Garmin-Barracuda win Qatar TTTBoonen denies Blythe in opener

Cycling Weekly's Tour of Qatar coverage index

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