Mark Cavendish is heading into the 2022 edition of the Giro d'Italia motivated to continue the strong form he has shown this season, but suggested early season wins have papered over the serious injury he suffered at the Six Days of Ghent in November.
The 36-year-old last raced at the Italian Grand Tour in 2013, where he won the points classification following five stage wins. He also spent a brief period in the pink jersey, and he seemed in confident spirits speaking at the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl press conference ahead of the race commencing on Friday.
“I’m coming into the race prepared and relaxed," Cavendish said. "I worked hard for this, scored some victories already this year, and the motivation is there. I always loved being here and it feels great to return after nine years.
"Last time I was here I took five wins and the points jersey, so there are a lot of great memories I have from the previous participations.
“Obviously, the dynamic of the Giro might have changed since the last time I was here and it might not be the race I remember, so we’ll see how things unfold. But as I already said, I had a good preparation and I’m happy with where I am. Actually, I’m in pretty similar form to last year, and this gives me confidence."
Despite his optimism, Cavendish suggested people need to take into consideration that he suffered two broken ribs and a collapsed lung in November's Six Days of Ghent race, following a high speed crash at the Belgian velodrome.
He recognises early season victories at the Tour of Oman, the UAE Tour and Milano-Torino have certainly raised people's expectations of him at the Giro, but the Manxman attempted to ensure these stayed realistic by suggesting he is happy to simply be riding in Italy.
“Because I was winning early, people tend to forget that I had a punctured lung at the end of November," he explained. "Of course it’s hard. I work hard. It doesn’t come easy.”
Looking ahead to the 21 stages featuring on the Giro this year, Cavendish doesn't expect to challenge on the first stage in Budapest, a 195km flat route finishing with a steep incline likely favouring punchier riders and versatile fast-men. Instead, he seems to have his eye on a few other days in the three weeks to help him add to his 52 Grand Tour stage victories.
“I looked over the parcours and there will be a couple of opportunities for a bunch sprint in the next three weeks, although I don’t think the pure sprinters will have a chance on the opening stage," he added.
"The Giro has always had some savage stages and this year is no different, but it will be the same for everyone. We’re happy to be here, you can feel how everything is building up with just days to go until the start, and we’ll try to be in contention every time there will be an opportunity.”
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