By Nick Bull
Mark Cavendish praised former rival turned team-mate Alessandro Petacchi ahead of their first outing in Omega Pharma-Quick Step colours together, and says he hopes they put on a "good show" in this week's Tour of Britain.
Cavendish returns to road racing in the national tour - which starts today in Peebles, Scotland - after nearly six weeks away, and the link-up with new lead-out man Petacchi could arguably be classed as a dry-run for 2014.
Speaking at the pre-race press conference, the Manxman said about the Italian: "To say the man doesn't go badly for an old dog is an understatement. He is a true professional, he trains so hard, he is on super form.
"It was a big motivation to come here with him and race. I am very excited he is on the team and he is a good guy so hopefully we will put on a good show this week and get some good results out of it."
Cavendish has won five stages in the last two editions of the race, with today's finish at Drumlanrig Castle likely to end in a bunch kick.
The 2011 world road race champion has previously won on the finishes in Guildford and London that are being used for stages seven and eight respectively, and he said its testament to the quality of the race that he has come here to compete for more success.
"Last year the crowds were unbelievable. Not just where we had the Olympics in Surrey, but the whole week, even in the bad weather the whole week round," said Cavendish.
"That's testament not only to how big cycling has come in the country across all disciplines, but for the amount of times this race had been on and what's it become. The standard of the teams that come here is phenomenal.
"We come here with great team - it is quite important now for our team to come here. Omega Pharma had their record sales in July in the UK, which shows how big the interest in the sport has become, and I know for sure that for Quick-Step, one of their biggest markets is the UK now so it's important for us to be here. That's why we are going to try and do well here, no matter if I've been on the track [at last week's International Belgium Open] or not, we're here and wanting to win at the Tour of Britain."
However, one win Cavendish admitted he is unlikely to take in the next eight days is that of the overall victory.
"It is a very difficult race here. With time bonuses, given the right course, there is a year I believe I could win here. Just given the terrain in the UK, it lends itself to splitting the race."
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