Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) “is in a bad situation” with his Tirreno-Adriatico crash and Milan-San Remo next Saturday, but it could work in his advantage as he aims for more Tour de France stage wins.
Those close to Cavendish say that his crash, broken rib and time cut from the Tirreno-Adriatico’s first stage on Wednesday will hurt his immediate chances but there is a bright side.
“It’s possible to race Milan-San Remo, of course, but the question is how good would he be?” Erik Zabel, four-time winner and former coach in Team Highroad with Cavendish, told Cycling Weekly.
“A broken rib is really painful, it hurts in every single move, and it’s even hard to train with this. I’d say Cav is in a bad situation now for Milan-San Remo.
“For the Tour de France it’s not so bad, he has fewer kilometres racing now, but for the summer, that could be an advantage.”
Cavendish counts 30 stage wins in the Tour, four shy of Eddy Merckx’s all-time record. A forced rest now could see him sharper than ever for the Tour’s Grand Départ from Vendée on July 7.
“You know how Cav is, always motivated to train and race, but sometimes it was too much especially in the Rio Olympics year in 2016,” Zabel said. “So maybe some rest is good for him.”
“That’s what we hope for, to count on his character, to prove himself and come back, but it does get tough with a full year of suffering behind him,” Dimension Data sports director, Rolf Aldag said.
“He’s had to deal with Epstein Barr, the Tour de France crash last year, and just kept on going. We started off well in Dubai, but he was run over in Abu Dhabi and now this, it takes a mental toll, that’s for sure.”
Cavendish began the 2018 season on a high with a win in the third stage of the Dubai Tour. He continued to the Tour of Oman and to the Abu Dhabi Tour. In Abu Dhabi, though, he fell due to the race director’s car braking before stage one even reached kilometre zero, after which he abandoned and trained for his return.
His return at Tirreno-Adriatico ended five kilometres before Dimension Data finished the stage one team time trial.
Cavendish crashed, banged up his entire body and suffered a fractured rib. Due to the incident, he missed the 25 per cent time cut and was forced out by the race jury regardless of the injuries.
Milan-San Remo, the Monument he won in 2009, and his spring campaign are now up in the air. The team is waiting to see how he responds to training at home in Quarrata, Tuscany.
“It would be wrong one day after the crash to say that this or that is the solution, we need to step back and see how he responds on the bike. He already will be on the smart trainer today, so that’s good,” Aldag added.
“We still need to cope with this. He was trying to see if he could race today. He was with the team in case a last minute decision would happen and allow him to continue. After the crash, we presented the evidence and gave the video of him going down, but no, anyway, we go from here and plan it all over.”
Cavendish’s original plan had him racing Milan-San Remo, Ghent-Wevelgem, Dwars door Vlaanderen, Scheldeprijs and Paris-Roubaix.
“All these comebacks are not easy,” continued Aldag, “but on the other hand, he’s also professional and there’s not really alterative than to come back and train hard.”