'People think I just sit behind eight people and sprint, I can race,' says Cavendish ahead of return to Worlds

The Manxman confirms he also plans to ride the British National Championships later this year

Mark Cavendish
(Image credit: Getty)

"Only questions about the Worlds please," read the communiqué half an hour before Mark Cavendish's online pre-race press conference in Flanders.

That meant a couple of topics were off the table.

Firstly, his thoughts on the comments from his boss, Deceuninck - Quick-Step's Patrick Lefevere, that women's cycling is a "charity" the Belgian wasn't willing to support. Fellow British star Lizzie Deignan is also present at the Team GB hotel in Belgium and was unwavering in her withering assessment of the 66-year-old a mere 24 hours earlier.

Secondly, his contract renewal with Deceuninck - Quick-Step, which is said to be edging ever closer to being completed.

Even the most amateur of detectives can figure out the snag in these two lines of inquiry and the potential awkwardness that could be thrown up, spattering all over the gigantic elephant in the room. 

>>> Lizzie Deignan on Patrick Lefevere: 'I'm pleased he has no interest in women's cycling, we have no interest in him either'

But still, it's disappointing. Cavendish has been a very vocal supporter of women's cycling for a long time, as recently as this summer when he heaped praise on the "inspirational" Marianne Vos, purposefully highlighting her achievements at the Giro Donne, which was happening concurrently alongside his Tour de France comeback when all eyes were on him.

But we're all grown up enough to know how access works, and it's not much good standing outside a Zoom meeting trying to listen in, so let's just hope his allyship returns once pen is put to paper on the new deal, ey?

So, the Worlds, his first since Qatar 2016.

"Half the team are younger than [me] when I won the Worlds 10 years ago and it makes me feel pretty old," Cavendish admits.

He feels Great Britain has a well-rounded team that can adapt to different situations, that cohesion will be important, and between the strong squad also containing the likes of Tom Pidcock and Ethan Hayter, there are a number of ways in which they could potentially win the race.

Whether a sprint is one of those situations, and whether he could see himself contesting one, is batted away, he won't talk specifics on leadership, and anyway, why heap pressure on his young team-mates? His analysis is the race won't be decided by the parcours or the wind, but how their rivals decide to race on Sunday.

"People think I just sit behind eight people and sprint, I can race. I can race a bicycle, you know? I can adapt to different situations," he laughs. "I race for a Belgium team, I've won a lot of races in Belgium and I think the team deemed me capable of a World Championships in Flanders."

On Pidcock, who missed his appointment with the press after apparently getting lost in the tranquility of his massage (hasn't that happened to all of us at some point?), he says he's already proven himself capable, having recently acquired an Olympic gold medal, but that patience is a virtue.

"I think people forget that he's still only a kid," Cavendish explains. "He's only in his first year as a professional and there's a lot of difference in racing as a professional...but there's no doubt now, he's Olympic champion. 

"He's a nice kid he's good in the group," the 36-year-old adds. "Those young guys who grew up together, which I know from my experience when I won the Worlds, I had my mates there. It wasn't just guys coming and racing as a team. Stannard, Thomas, Brad, Steve, Froomey, Millar, most of us grow up together. There's a difference between going to work for someone and going into battle with someone.

"It's quite nice to see those lads have that same bond we had. Going in as that little unit. If you can spot things you can kind of relate to it's nice, as an old man."

Cavendish says he plans to race the British National Championships this year but remains tight-lipped on his other plans for the future.

"Just enjoying racing," is what's ahead for him. "I love riding my bike, I've not got much longer. I think also when I'm enjoying it I perform better, so I'll carry on just doing that."

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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.

Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).

I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.