Mark Cavendish's season starts in Turin this Saturday (May 7). The Manxman may have been racing since January this year, but the Giro d'Italia is where it gets serious.
Cavendish has only taken two wins so far this season - a stage of the Tour of Oman and Scheldeprijs - but he still has a big year ahead of him. With the world championships in Copenhagen being run on a sprinters' course, his season is loaded toward the second half of the year.
Another attempt for the Tour de France's green jersey in July will be followed by the Vuelta a Espana to build his form back up for the world championships in September.
His Tour build-up essentially starts in Turin with the Giro's opening team time trial, but question marks remain over how far he will go in this year's race.
The HTC sprinter conceded in his team's press conference today that finishing last year's Vuelta hindered his form for the world championships in Melbourne, but while he was wearing the green sprinters jersey, he couldn't have pulled out.
The final week of this year's Giro is exceptionally tough, and many expect Cavendish not to make it to Milan. "There is a concern [that's it's too tough]. I'm not alone in finding this one of the hardest ever, and there are guys who are more scared than me," he said.
"We'll see how it goes when we get there, that's it. I go in to every race with a goal to ride the final day."
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Cavendish is looking at five possible stage wins this year, the final one being stage 12, a pan-flat run to Ravenna on Italy's east coast. "It's harder to win the [sprinter's] jersey at the Giro. It's not geared towards sprinters, it's geared towards a consistent rider."
"At the Tour it's a sprinters jersey. At the Giro you get the same amount of points if it's a flat or mountain day. It would be nice to wear it but it's just getting harder and harder. I don't really see myself wearing the sprinter's jersey here."
He went on to play down comparisons to his 2009 season, saying it was an exceptional year. "I can't make 2009 as a target year. It doesn't mean I'm not going well if I'm not winning that much. I started racing in January, and if I wasn't racing no one would say anything. Just because I race, doesn't mean I have to win.
"I'm still young and I'm still learning. I'm only in my fifth year and we're still learning what works."
Cavendish is one of two Manxmen riding the Giro this year after Pete Kennaugh got drafted in to Team Sky at the last minute. "He should do alright, I've been training with him and he's got good form," Cavendish said. "He should be okay, as long as he doesn't get carried away with trying to stay at the front, that's the mistake a lot of young guys make."
2011 Giro d'Italia Coverage Index
Cavendish takes his third Scheldeprijs win
Cavendish takes final Tour of Oman stage
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