Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick Step) sprinted to his first win of 2015 in Argentina's Tour de San Luis on Sunday. After twice losing head-to-head against Colombian Fernando Gaviria, he beat his rival to second in the final stage.
"I'm happy and proud we could come away with a win here," Cavendish said. "It's important, not just for myself, but for the whole team, to get a good feeling started here. This is important race experience that we will use to build for our season."
Cavendish lost stage one and stage three, the first sprints, to 20-year-old Gaviria. Gaviria both times jumped Cavendish and held his advantage. On stage three, his acceleration took him three bike lengths ahead of Cavendish.
On Sunday in San Luis' centre, Cavendish won but it was a close battle. He said that he purposely began his sprint early to anticipate Gaviria.
Lampre-Merida's blue and pink train led for Italian Sacha Modolo into the final kilometre. World Champion Michal Kwiatkowski surged ahead with Fabio Sabatini and Cavendish in his wake.
"With four kilometres to go Guillaume Van Keirsbulck took it up. Other teams came close, but then Lukasz Wisniowski took over the lead-out. He took it into the last corner," Cavendish continued.
"Fabio Sabatini was the last guy and he led me out starting at 600 metres to go. At 300 metres to go I went. We knew we could go long, as we did recon of the finish prior to the race. It's slightly downhill. So with the long distance acceleration of a guy like Gaviria and that kind of a finish, it's important to anticipate his sprint and do the job before he does. We did that."
Jakub Mareczko, riding for the Italian national team, placed third and Modolo fourth.
Cavendish will leave Argentina for the Dubai Tour, February 4 to 7. The Tour de San Luis race training and win will likely give him and the Etixx train extra confidence as it sprints towards Milan-San Remo and the Tour de France.
"You can't replicate this kind of preparation at any kind of a training camp," Cavendish said. "You need to have other riders around you to really work on your lead-out. Tour de San Luis in January is a perfect way to do that. A win is the best way to show you are building for the rest of your season."
Argentinian Daniel Diaz (Funvic) took the overall win ahead of Colombians Rodolfo Torres (Colombia national team) and last year's winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in third.
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