Mark Cavendish will sprint in the UAE Tour this week, but underlines that he is riding in the Emirates to work for Dimension Data’s overall ambitions.
Cavendish comes off a six-month break due to the Epstein-Barr virus, having raced only the Vuelta a San Juan so far in the 2019 season.
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“Obviously with the sprints, I’ll see what I can do but we are here for the GC and we are here to get our three guys in the top-20, that’s it,” Cavendish told Cycling Weekly.
“I’ll try my best. The efforts here will hopefully help get that top-end back and we’ll see what happens from there.”
Mononucleosis forced Cavendish to stop after the Tour de France in 2018. He has been suffering from the same bout of the illness for the last two years
At the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina, he worked his way up in the sprints. On the final day, he placed 12th as Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) took the win in the sprint.
In the three weeks since, Cavendish continued to build back to his best.
“I was training, I went and did a little bit on the velodrome and a little bit in the mountains in Mallorca,” Cavendish said. “I was training and now here a few days before the race.”
Sprints are on offer, but Dimension Data has men for the overall in the seven-day UAE Tour in Roman Kreuziger, Louis Meintjes and Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg.
“I feel all right, but team Dimension Data are here with a GC team and I’m here to do a job for those guys,” Cavendish added.
“We need WorldTour points and there are more points on offer for the top-20 on GC than there is for a stage so we are just point-hunting here and we have three guys who should make top-20, so we’ll do our best to do that. My job is to get them to the foot of the climbs.”
This is the first year for the UAE Tour, which combines the former Dubai Tour and Abu Dhabi Tour. Cavendish’s last win came in stage three of the 2018 Dubai Tour.
“It’s nice to see it develop here, we go to all seven Emirates this year. There are a couple of stages that can shake up the GC. Having a team time trial is good, it’s on a windy circuit that will take a committed team working well together. We have the sprints, and Jabel Hafeet,” he said.
“There’s a great line-up here. Everyone is here to get points in the WorldTour race and it’s a nice place for people to come in February and get points. The race has grown here. It’s nice to see so many stars here.”
Those stars for the sprints include Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin), Elia Viviani (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates.
Contenders for the overall include Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma).