Cavendish to start all three Grand Tours in 2011

Mark Cavendish wins Vuelta a Espana 2010 stage 13

Mark Cavendish confirmed that he would start all three Grand Tours this season during the Giro d'Italia press conference in London yesterday.

The HTC-Highroad sprinter said simply; "they're on my programme," when asked if he would tackle the Giro, Tour and Vuelta all in the same year.

Cavendish was speaking at Bar Italia in Soho along with Giro organiser Angelo Zomegnan as the Italian looks to promote his race to a wider audience. Cavendish returns to the Giro this May after missing the 2010 event when he rode the Tour of California instead.

"It's a beautiful Giro," he said. Hopeful of repeating the 2009 opening stage, when he became the first Briton to wear the race leader's jersey, he said; "we won the team time trial in 2009 and I got the maglia rosa and won three other stages. It was a special race for me and so it's back on my programme. To get some results would be incredible."

He went on to say there appeared to be four definite sprint stages and two other possible sprints, most of which will be in the first half of the race, but added; "we're going for much more than sprint wins. We've got a strong team."

Cavendish is unlikely to finish the race with it's brutal last week in the Dolomites and Alps in the north of the country. Instead he will take a break before building back up for the Tour de France.

His first attempt at riding all three Grand Tours in one year could see him become the first rider to win a stage in all three in one year since Alessandro Petacchi in 2003. However the focus of his Vuelta participation will be on building up to the world championships in Copenhagen.

This year's worlds have long been touted as one for the sprinters, and the British selectors are putting their plans in place for building a team around Cavendish. Key to this is qualification points that earn rider places. Ben Swift kicked off Great Britain's points gathering at the Tour Down Under, and Cavendish's heavy Grand Tour programme will also boost the number of GB riders at the worlds if he can win stages add to his current tally of 15.

Cavendish rode the Vuelta for the first time last year, taking three stages and the points classification, ahead of the world championships in Melbourne. So far in his career Cavendish has started seven Grand Tours and finished four of them.

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