Mark Cavendish blasted the imminent return of Riccardo Riccò and said George Hincapie’s move to BMC was a “massive loss” as the British ace confronts the 2010 season replete with new goals and challenges.
The HTC-Columbia sprinter called Riccò a “parasite” and said the unrepentant Italian doesn’t deserve a warm welcome from the cycling community.
“He’s like a parasite coming back. It’s not just the fact of what he’s done, because everyone can make mistakes, it’s that he’s not even sorry about,” Cavendish said. “It’s the lack of regret for all the damage that he’s done, that’s what upsets me.”
Cavendish wasn’t shy about speaking his mind about Riccò, who tested positive for CERA during the 2008 Tour de France and saw his ban reduced to 20 months by Italian cycling authorities.
The controversial Riccò hasn’t expressed much remorse for his doping transgressions, at least not enough to satisfy Cavendish.
Speaking to a small group of journalists Tuesday at the HTC-Columbia training camp in Mallorca, the ever-candid Cavendish said he won’t have much to say to Riccò.
“I don’t lie in bed at night and think about Riccardo Riccò,” he said.
The pair could line up together at Milan-San Remo in March, when Cavendish will be starting with the No. 1 bib as defending champion in what could be Riccò’s comeback race.
“It’s insulting to the passion that I have and the others have for cycling … and for someone else to not give a shit about that, it’s incredibly demoralizing to have to compete against that,” he said.
Cavendish said there’s a big difference between Riccò’s apparent cynicism and the repentant behavior of David Millar, whom he cited as a “good friend.”
“(Millar’s) deeply sorry for what he did and he wants to do something right about it,” he said. “It’s about people who don’t regret what they’ve done.”
Green jersey and worlds
Concerning his upcoming season, Cavendish said the top goals are winning the green jersey at the Tour de France and taking aim at the rainbow jersey at the world championships in Australia.
“Not winning the green jersey in 2009 was a disappointment, but not a failure,” he said. “If I don’t win the green jersey in 2010, it will be a failure.”
Cavendish will debut at the Tour of Qatar and race Tirreno-Adriatico to hone his legs for the San Remo defense. He’ll also race Tour of Flanders and Ghent-Wevelgem before deciding between racing the Tour of California or the Giro d’Italia.
After that, it’s the season highlight at the Tour de France and a run at the green jersey. Cavendish hinted he’ll likely race the Vuelta a España to prepare for the world championships, a top goal for the coming years.
“It’s not a pure sprinter’s course, but I know I can be at the front,” he said of the 2010 worlds course. “Copenhagen will for sure be for the sprinters and London (2012 Olympic Games) should be, too. Wearing the rainbow jersey gives you goose bumps and I want to wear it on the road.”
Cavendish expressed confidence that the HTC-Columbia train will be firing at all cylinders despite the loss of some key members.
“We have the best guys in the world in our train,” he said. “It’s easily forgotten that I was winning without a train. I don’t need a train to win. When I didn’t have a train, I was winning. If you build a train, you have almost no chance of losing – he might win alone, but with a train, he won’t lose.”
André Greipel, Berhard Eisel and Haydon Roulston are being considered to fill the important role Hincapie held in Cavendish’s lethal set-up train.
Cavendish expressed gratitude toward Hincapie, pointing out that the veteran American was vital to his most important victories during 2009 and that he’ll be sorely missed both on and off the bike.
“In every single race that I was with him, he was part of me winning. In every single race, he was right in front of me,” he said. “That’s a massive, massive loss to the team. His experience and power will be hard to replace. On a personal level, he was one of my best friends on the team, to share that joy of success with him. It will be hard without him.”
Cavendish lauded Hincapie’s performances in what he cited as two of his most important victories in 2009: Milan-San Remo and the final stage of the Tour de France on the Champs-Élysées.