Mark Cavendish believes that his new Omega Pharma-Quickstep team could be even better than HTC as he seeks a return to the top step of the podium at the Tour de France in 2013.
The Tour will form Cavendish's principal goal this season after high profile move to the Belgian team. 2012 saw his opportunities in the race limited by Sky's bid for the yellow jersey but the Manxman is optimistic that his new team-mates will be able to emulate the successes of his previous campaigns.
"There are a lot of different guys here and it's quite a diverse team," he said when asked about his thoughts on a new leadout train. " I think they can be better than HTC."
"The thing that builds the leadout is commitment; you need the psychology to be able to deliver a sprinter. We had that in droves in HTC and we've got that here."
Cavendish was speaking at the official launch of the Omega Pharma-Quickstep team at the Eddy Merckx velodrome in Ghent. With ‘The Cannibal' in attendance it was somewhat fitting that talk was of his aim to emulate Merckx's record for Tour stage wins.
"I want to go back to the Tour and compete in... well, compete! I want to win stages and the green jersey and come out as a successful team from there. With the right structure there we can go and be a dominant force like it was with HTC."
Cavendish knew it would be a big change moving to Quickstep. He left his close friend and right hand man, Bernie Eisel behind at Sky, and admitted that he had felt nervous about a move to a new team. After a winter's training, including two camps with the squad, he feels it is change for the better.
"I'd speak to Peta [Todd, Cavendish's girlfriend] and she'd say, ‘I haven't seen you this excited about training, riding your bike like a little boy, in a year.' That's how it feels again. This really feels like how I love to ride my bike and how I be cycling and that's a really great start."
Cavendish will fly to Argentina to begin his season at the Tour de San Luis, which starts this weekend. He will then ride the Tour of Qatar with the team's other big star (and former world champion) Tom Boonen.
Joking around with Boonen on the stage, Cavendish dismissed the notion that the two would be in competition with each other for leadership opportunities.
"I hate him!" he quipped. "No, not really. What we're doing is just going to complement the team. If it's a small group then Tom's there and if it comes to a sprint then I can safely say I've probably got the best leadout team in the world."
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