Cavendish back on the road at De Panne

Andy Jones blog Mark Cavendish Kemmelberg

See Thursday's Cycling Weekly for Mark Cavendish: The Big Interview

Just four days after racing the Madison at the World Track Championships, Mark Cavendish is back on the road in the Three Days of De Panne in Belgium, which starts today (Tuesday).

The Milan-San Remo champion has his sights on Ghent-Wevelgem next week (Wednesday, April 8) and the three-day stage race in Belgium is the perfect preparation.

Last year Cavendish (Columbia-Highroad) won two stages, including the longest one of the race, which was 228 kilometres. He said he'd go for a stage win again this week, but that Ghent-Wevelgem is the race he really wants.

Talking exclusively to Cycling Weekly he said: "I really want to win that race. I have to win that race. Last year, I lost because of a mistake near the finish and that made me change my whole approach to sprints. From then on I wasn't scared to go earlier from the front and keep out of the way of people who can block your progress."

Cavendish finished 17th in the race, won by Oscar Freire. It came down to a bunch sprint but he found himself out of position and boxed in.

"This year, if we can keep the race together, I really want to win it. I couldn't sleep properly for days after last year's race. People say I'm cocky or arrogant when I win, but they don't see the deep self-loathing when I lose a race I think I should have won. It really hurts me, you know."

Cavendish will not ride Sunday's Tour of Flanders, but is on the provisional start list for Paris-Roubaix, although a decision will not be made until after Ghent-Wevelgem. After that he has a short break, before riding the Tour of Romandy and the Giro d'Italia.

He said he would ride between 10 and 14 days of the Giro. Then comes the Tour of Switzerland and the Tour de France.

Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream) is also riding the Three Days of De Panne. He was second to Tony Martin (Columbia) in the Criterium International time trial on Sunday and will hope to go one better in the 15-kilometre test that concludes De Panne. The other Briton in the race is Steve Cummings of Barloworld.

Cavendish on the Kemmelberg in the 2008 Ghent-Wevelgem. By Andy Jones

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Sports journalist Lionel Birnie has written professionally for Sunday Times, Procycling and of course Cycling Weekly. He is also an author, publisher, and co-founder of The Cycling Podcast. His first experience covering the Tour de France came in 1999, and he has presented The Cycling Podcast with Richard Moore and Daniel Friebe since 2013. He founded Peloton Publishing in 2010 and has ghostwritten and published the autobiography of Sean Kelly, as well as a number of other sports icons.