With possibly his most challenging and complex season well under way, Mark Cavendish starts the Tour of Qatar tomorrow with his eyes firmly on the job in hand. However, with such complex goals as track gold, Tour de France yellow and a second world championship road race title, the 30-year-old Team Dimension Data rider will have half an eye on the future.
Addressing journalists in Doha before tomorrow’s race, Cavendish made it clear that if the targets are not flexible, then the pathway to them is something he may need to tweak. One of those stepping stones is the track World Championships to be held in London early next month.
“I’ll decide on the [Track] Worlds in the middle of this race,” he said. “Obviously I’ve only done four days [racing] in a row, so if I don't hold up after that, obviously my form isn’t very good.
“Every single day counts. It might not work. It might be in a few weeks I realise it’s not doable and I have to change everything.”
When asked, whether that meant the targets would change Cavendish was not specific, though indicated they would not, adding, “I might not win any of those three but I’ll certainly give it a go.”
“Track cycling is not like it used to be,” Cavendish said, explaining the enormity of his task.
“Now with the omnium there’s three sprint events, which is so specific, you need specific work for it. It’s not about your endurance anymore and that’s the hardest thing to calculate. I think it’s doable, like I said I might find out in a few weeks that it’s not, I might find out the middle of this week that it’s not and things will have to change.”
Before those headline events, however, there are five stages of the Tour of Qatar which the former World Champion is clearly looking forward to.
“Dead happy we’re back. I haven’t been here since I won in 2013. I wanted to come back to Qatar, so I’m happy to be back now with Dimension Data, which is a strong team and we’re looking to get results.
“I think it’s going to be difficult to look for an overall victory with the ITT being so long this time, definitely with Edvald [Boasson Hagen] we’ve got a chance there, and in the team we’ve got opportunity to win all five stages.”
The second of those stages is a test event for October’s road World Championships, to be held partly on The Pearl, an artificial island in the nation’s capital, Doha.
“I’m excited we get to do the course on Tuesday, it’ll be nice to see what kind of race it’ll be. From the maps I’ve seen it’s quite built up, so I don’t know how much wind can play a factor, it’ll be nice to gauge what factor the wind can play in the final circuit.”
Given the technical nature of the course, the opportunity to race on it could well give Cavendish the advantage he needs to achieve the final of those targets.
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Owen Rogers is an experienced journalist, covering professional cycling and specialising in women's road racing. He has followed races such as the Women's Tour and Giro d'Italia Donne, live-tweeting from Women's WorldTour events as well as providing race reports, interviews, analysis and news stories. He has also worked for race teams, to provide post race reports and communications.
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