Mark Cavendish is getting comfortable with his new Omega Pharma-QuickStep team. After one year at Sky, he is deciding which Belgians will go where in his lead out and in general adjusting to his new squad.
The eight-man team arrived last to the start yesterday morning to begin the Tour of Qatar in Doha's centre. Cavendish immediately signed in and returned to the team car, sitting down on the bonnet to fiddle with his shoe.
"Adjusting," sports director, Brian Holm told Cycling Weekly. "You think he could've positioned his shoe plate yesterday when he had all day, and not 10 minutes before the stage."
However, as Cavendish's former advisor Max Sciandri says, "Cav is Cav."
Cavendish annulled his team Sky contract early to join OmegaPharma, where he should have more space to spread his wings. He went from a predominantly British team to a true Belgian setup.
In Qatar, he races with three Belgians, a Dutchman, a Czech, a Slovakian and an Italian. His old mate, Bernie Eisel, stayed with Sky.
"He fits in well with the Belgians. He'd probably fit in anywhere he'd go," Holm said, looking over at Cavendish taking hex key to his shoe plate.
"[Replacing Eisel] doesn't happen overnight. At the end of the year, he's going to have a new best friend. It's like breaking up with a girlfriend, you find a new one.
"Bernie is a fantastic guy. I really like him, I worked with him for five years, but like everything in life, it comes to an end."
Matteo Trentin zips around, relaxed and with a smile. The Italian is a sprinter and second year pro. In Omega Pharma, it appears he and Cavendish are becoming buddies. Later in the day, he posted a playful twitter photo of Trentin resting in bed. (http://goo.gl/gZtJ7)
Four-time winner Tom Boonen was due to return to Qatar, but had to pull out after a crash in training. Doctors performed an emergency operation to remove a spreading septic infection. Holm said that he heard a rumour and from those close with the doctors, that Boonen was only eight hours away from losing his arm.
The Belgian classics star will be back for the Tour of Oman next week. He needs to build his race rhythm ahead of the big one-day races in early April.
The team, without Boonen in Qatar, will be able to focus solely on Cavendish's sprints. Attention will also be given to which men will protect Cavendish in Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo and Ghent-Wevelgem.
"Ahhh... It's not like the Tour de France lead out, but as we go towards Tirreno we will try to work it out. It will depend on Tom, if he rides the Tour and stuff like that," Holm continued.
Holm looked over the rest of his squad, including former cyclo-cross world champion, Zdenek Stybar and 1.99-metre Stijn Vandenbergh.
"It's going to reach the level of HTC, I think. With Cav, he always finds the riders and at the end of the day, makes everyone a bit better. ... Look at Stijn, he's like a tower. Cavendish is going to be well protected from the wind."
Yesterday, the team pulled Cavendish into contention, but was unable do anything about the escape. After a team time trial today, Cavendish will have a go tomorrow (Tuesday).
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Tour of Qatar 2013: Preview and coverage index
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