Mark Cavendish admitted he doesn’t know how his race form is yet ahead of his 2017 opener at the Dubai Tour this week, due to still racing on the track until the end of last November and starting his season preparations later than usual.
The 31-year-old Dimension Data sprinter heads into the new road season off the back of a year that saw him combine racing on the track and road.
While the majority of the peloton stopped racing after the Road World Championships in Qatar and Abu Dhabi Tour in October, Cavendish continued competing for another month, first at the London Six Day then the Ghent Six Day – the latter which he won with Bradley Wiggins.
He spent the last week in nearby Abu Dhabi training ahead of the five-stage race that starts on Tuesday, and although he said he had been “training all right” he didn’t know how that would impact his race form.
“We’ll see how it goes in the race really,” Cavendish said. “I didn’t finish my season until the end of November so I’m usually a good month into training by then. I’ll have to see where my form is at.
“We’re here with a strong Dimension Data team for the sprints and I’m here to do my best.”
Watch: Essential guide to the Middle East races
Cavendish is starting his second year with Dimension Data and will be primarily focusing all his efforts on Tour de France in July. He commented that the atmosphere among squad was “super relaxed”, with two new faces among the eight-man line up in Dubai; 22-year-old neo-pro South African Ryan Gibbens and Yorkshireman Scott Thwaites.
“It’s nice, I’m looking forward to it. There are a few new riders here. We’ve got young Ryan Gibbins, the neo pro so he’ll be learning the ropes. It’s nice to come here and just do that.”
“He’s funny – a good northern lad,” Cavendish said of Thwaites – who joins the team from Bora-Argon18 for 2017. “We haven’t raced together yet but I know he is good, that’s why it’s a good fit for him to be here.
“He’s a good lad to have on the team, he jokes – some of the Europeans don’t get the northern humour.”
Among those Cavendish will go up against in the sprints this week are Marcel Kittel (Quick Step Floors), John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and Elia Viviani (Sky), and he’ll be hoping to repeat his form here in 2015 that saw him win two stages and the overall. After Dubai, Cavendish is due to compete at the Abu Dhabi Tour at the end of February.
“They [the Dubai Tour and the Abu Dhabi Tour] are more relaxed,” he continued. “They are good racing, as a sprinter they’re really good for your early season form. You come here flying you can do well – you can really get that top end from riding here.
“It’s quite relaxed through the day and then it really does, it’s competitive at the end, you get that power effort so it is good to come here. Dubai, Qatar, Abu Dhabi was a really good situation for sprinters.”