Mark Cavendish is a symbol of his generation and an inspiration for Milan-San Remo, says Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors).
Cavendish counts 30 Tour de France stage wins so far and a Monument title that Viviani covets, a victory on the Via Roma in San Remo, Italy.
The British sprinter was only 23 years old and racing in his debut Milan-San Remo when he shot from the pack and sprinted past Heinrich Haussler for the 2009 win.
"And do you know who gave me the most unexpected compliments? Cavendish. Yes, from Mark. My direct rival, the sharpest, on the road and on the track. He said I was the best. And I returned the compliment immediately," Viviani told Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"I've always seen Cavendish as the symbol of the generation just before mine, and there were many challenges. And if there is a way for me to win San Remo, it's in his way. Seated and sprinting, a trackie in the last metres. I'd like to win just like him, in a day of grace."
Cavendish won Milan-San Remo with HTC-Highroad. He went on to win the world championship, stages in the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España, and green jersey in the Tour.
He rode for Teams Sky, Quick-Step – now Viviani's home – and Dimension Data where he will remain in 2019.
Cavendish is fighting to get back to his winning ways after a 2018 season marred by the Epstein-Barr virus. He begins his 2019 season at Argentina's Tour de San Juan on January 27.
Viviani begins on January 15 in Australia's Tour Down Under, and with Fernando Gaviria transferring to UAE Team Emirates, he will be Quick-Step's out-right sprint leader.
After winning four stages in the 2017 Giro d'Italia, Quick-Step is expected to take Viviani to the Tour for the first time in his career next year.
First however, he aims for one of the big ones for both Italians and sprinters: Milan-San Remo in March.
"Before I went to see the other riders and the other teams, I tried to learn, to steal some details," he said of watching what happened when Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) rode to victory in the 2018 Milan-San Remo.
"Now they come to us, they refer to me, and I like it. I'm thinking of San Remo, I ride from my home in Monaco and ride the Cipressa and Poggio climb. I know that if I have to do that extra, I'll do it, but in a calm way."
Viviani broke through last season on the road with four Giro stage wins, the Italian championship and three stages in the Vuelta a España. He then knew he had made the right decision to break his Team Sky contract a year early to join Quick-Step in 2018.
His main 2019 goal is Milan-San Remo, but like this March, he said you never know how you feel until you begin sprinting in the last metres of the 300-kilometre race. He said his legs died on him as he tried to sprint to second behind solo Nibali. He finished in 19th place.
The Italian monument is scheduled for March 23 in 2019. Ghent-Wevelgem comes one week later. Viviani will try for revenge in Belgium, one year after Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) came around him at the last moment.
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