Mark Cavendish's debut in the Tour of Flanders in two weeks' time, he insisted, will be strictly for practice. Though he won Milan-San Remo last year in his first outing, he plans to leave the Belgian classic to his bulkier rivals.
"I just want to get experience at Flanders for the future," Cavendish told Cycling Weekly. "I know I said that about San Remo last year, but, seriously, it is about experience."
Cavendish became only the fourth rider in history to win San Remo in his debut. Ahead of the race, he had insisted he would participate only to gain experience, which sounds familiar to what he is saying ahead of Flanders, April 4.
"There was some misunderstanding over the winter that I want to contend for Flanders. That's a dream, not a realistic thing. It is more to see if I can race for it in the next years. If I do it this year, and it is way out of my league, then I won't try [to win it in the future]."
The HTC-Columbia sprinter, in fact, delayed his start to this year's season and missed 2000-kilometres in training due to teeth problems. With zero wins coming into Saturday's San Remo, he has ruled himself out for a repeat win.
"I am going to Catalonia straight after San Remo."
At the Tour of Catalonia, March 22 to 28, he will have a chance to reach top form and possibly take his first win of the season. A win in Spain would leave him in good stead for Flanders, even if it "is about experience."
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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