Mark Cavendish took third place in the opening stage of the Tour Colombia, his first race of the 2024 road season.
The Manxman is in South America after completing an altitude camp with some of his Astana Qazaqstan teammates, including leadout man Michael Mørkøv, who joined the team during the off-season.
Fernando Gaviria of Movistar, riding his home race, took the stage win ahead of Davide Persico of the Bingoal WB team. Cavendish’s Astana teammates worked to take control of the front of the bunch in the rain soaked closing kilometres but ultimately Cavendish was forced to settle for third.
Speaking post-race, Cavendish was optimistic and said it was a strong sign of what his team will be capable of in the coming days.
He said: “Well, the result could have been worse, but it could have been better. This is my best debut race for a few years and the strength of our team was evident, so we can take so many positives from the race and know that we are working towards winning.”
Gaviria called the stage “total chaos” and revealed that both he and Cavendish had struck an agreement early on to keep an early breakaway’s advantage in check.
"It was a calm stage, well controlled by both Astana and Movistar," he said. “I spoke about it with Mark beforehand. We decided that we couldn't give the break a lot of space today.”
The Tour Colombia continues on Wednesday with a mountainous 168 kilometre stage two between Paipa and Santa Rosa de Viterbo. It includes more than 2,000 metres of elevation gain.
Cavendish has spent several weeks at altitude with his teammates as he builds for the new season. His coach Vasilis Anastopoulos joined Astana over the winter and previously said that the Manxman will tackle several altitude camps before this summer’s Tour de France.
Anastopoulos told Cycling Weekly in October that a trip to Colombia was on the cards and that he had already begun to put plans in place with Astana boss Alexander Vinokourov prior to officially joining the team.
“So my proposal is I would like for Mark to do two to three altitude training camps before the Tour,” he said. “At the end of the day, I think based on the race programme, we will probably do two camps.
“Checking the weather at the end of January, February, there are not too many places in Europe where you can do a camp. There's Mount Teide, but it's usually really booked out and it's pretty hilly for a guy like Mark. And you know, there's Sierra Nevada, but it's full of snow, the weather's bad then.
"So I'm looking at some other options in Colombia where you can train high, but also there's some roads where it's pretty flat so you can also do some sprint work over there. That’s the draft idea I already have for next year.”
The Greek former pro turned coach worked with Cavendish during his last spell with the Quick-Step team and was integral to his renaissance at the 2021 Tour de France in which he won four stages.
After completing the Tour Colombia, Cavendish is scheduled to head to the Middle East to compete in the UAE Tour next week.
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