“It’s his big appointment for the spring, for sure,” Etixx-Quick Step sports director, Davide Bramati told Cycling Weekly.
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“If he’s in condition, everyone knows that it’s going to be a goal. We can’t hide it that he wants to return to his best. In the past, he’s had problems at the base of the Poggio. Now, given the finish is on Via Roma, where there have been many sprint finishes, it’s a San Remo suited for Mark if he’s at 100%.”
Cavendish won the Italian classic, one of cycling’s five monuments, in 2009 during the brief period that the organiser finished the race on the seaside. For 2015, RCS Sport moved the finish of the race back to Via Roma where Fausto Coppi first won in 1949 and Eddy Merckx won a record seven times.
The move means the cyclists will have one kilometre less between the final climb over Poggio and the finish after nearly 300 kilometres. The organiser explained that it could make room for the attackers, like Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) or Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing).
“Before there were three kilometres after the descent of the Poggio, but now there’s two kilometres,” RCS Sport Cycling Director, Mauro Vegni told Cycling Weekly.
If someone has 10 seconds, it could be sufficient to survive to the finish line. It gives the possibility to attack on the Poggio, not just to make a selection, but to win.”
Bramati said that the straight shot into the heart of the seaside town on Italy’s Mediterranean coast makes it harder for an attacker to stay clear and easier for Cavendish to pull of his second win.
“For sure, on the Poggio, someone will attack. You just have to see if it’s someone who can make a difference. We’ve seen in the last years the difference hasn’t been enough and the top riders control the group with a sprinter in the mix,” Bramati added.
“The arrival on Via Roma, which is maybe straighter and wider, maybe makes it easier for the group to pull back any attack.”
RCS Sport tweaked its race during the seven-year period, 2008 to 2014, that it finished seaside. It added in the Mànie climb for five years after the Turchino and in 2014, it planned to take the group up the five-kilometre climb to Pompeiana between the classic Cipressa and Poggio ascents.
Once the organiser cancelled its Pompeiana plan because of road works, Cavendish decided to race. He lost the sprint to Norwegian Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and placed fifth.
The rest of 2014 was marked by a crash on the first day of the Tour de France that forced cycling’s sprint king to abandon and opened the door for rival Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) to shine.
The 2015 season, which starts with Argentina’s Tour de San Luis on January 19, could see 29-year-old Cavendish back to his best. For the first time in seven years, he kept his legs turning in six-day races. He raced in both Ghent and Zurich, winning the latter, with Etixx team-mate Iljo Keisse.
“Those six-day races helped him and he was at the training camps with a good speed in his legs. We are on a good path,” added Bramati.
“With Milan-San Remo back to its old course, he’s motivated even more to return to how he was before. It’s extra motivation to start even stronger. After San Remo, we will look to see we are at.”
Bramati added that the team has yet to decide which Grand Tours Cavendish will race in 2015. Cavendish is currently in Spain as part of Etixx’s second winter training camp.