Mark Cavendish wrote off this morning a repeat win at his favourite one-day race, Milan-San Remo. Despite a week's racing at Tirreno-Adriatico in Italy, he is still paying for a lack of training in January.
"I can't suffer like I used too," HTC-Columbia's sprinter told Cycling Weekly. "It's just on that redline of just suffering for six K up the Cipressa. That's that, I can't do it, I haven't got the form."
Cavendish missed training and delayed the start to his season due to teeth problems. He has raced 14 days so far this year, without a win, but says he still lacks the "resilience" with only four days until Milan-San Remo.
"San Remo is not about climbing, it is about resilience. You don't have to be a climber to win San Remo, you have to be resilient. It's about suffering. And you can't suffer without training. I can't suffer, that's the thing.
"It is so easy sometimes to pop. You have to work really hard on your resilience. You have to be lean, [I am] not like last year. I am pretty good, I am as light as I was last year, but my power to weight [ratio] is not the same. I was stronger last year because I did a lot more training. I did not do as much training this January. I missed 2,000K, that's a lot."
Cavendish is pushing on, though. He said that he is undeterred by news pieces written or comments from his rivals, he has respect for the race and will take pride in wearing the number 1 of defending champion.
"I respect the race," continued Cavendish. "Milano-San Remo is a f*****g hard race.
"It is like those people who say they don't want it to end in a bunch sprint. It is never a bunch sprint, it is 20 guys. The guys have so much respect for that race - training, diet - that shows how much respect they have for the race.
"It is a shame that I can't go in saying 'I want to win, I want to win.' That would have been the nicest thing. I love it, it is my favourite one day race. Just how the story unfolds, for me, for the others sprinters, for the climbers, for the spectators: it is the tension, the build up to the finish. 'They will or they won't', 'they will or they won't' all the way to the finish, for the last 100K, that is the great thing about it."
Cavendish surprised many winning last year in his debut, becoming only the fourth rider to do so behind Gabriele Colombo (1996), Eddy Merckx (1966) and Gaetano Belloni (1917). He won the final day's stage of Tirreno prior to San Remo, as well. This year, though, he never figured in this year's Tirreno sprints and even crashed in the finale of today's stage, suffering scrapes and bruises.
Despite Cavendish's denial, his teeth problems and today's crash, pundits still consider him a favourite to win.
Hammond and Hunt in Cervelo's San Remo squad
Cavendish improving but San Remo win unlikely says Piva
Sky positions Boasson Hagen for San Remo win
Boonen talks Milan-San Remo and Cavendish
Cavendish and HTC team recon San Remo finish
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Founded in 1891, Cycling Weekly and its team of expert journalists brings cyclists in-depth reviews, extensive coverage of both professional and domestic racing, as well as fitness advice and 'brew a cuppa and put your feet up' features. Cycling Weekly serves its audience across a range of platforms, from good old-fashioned print to online journalism, and video.
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