SCHOTEN, Belgium (VN) – At the ripe age of 25, Mark Cavendish has already amassed a wealth of experience at the world’s biggest races. He’s won Tour stages, Giro stages, Milan-San Remo and a host of one-day events. Yet he’s never done Paris-Roubaix, and the prospect of participating in his first on Sunday has the sprinter grinning ear to ear.
“I’m excited,” Cavendish said. “I’ve been wanting to race it for five years. I’ve been begging (team management). For four years I was begging to do Flanders, and I finally got to do it last year. Now I finally get to do Paris-Roubaix.”
Before the cobbled classics week, Cavendish had already done course reconnaissance twice with his team. Part of Cavendish’s draw to the classics is the rare possibility of role reversal for him — he can ride as a domestique.
Back in December at team camp at Specialized’s California headquarters, Cavendish said the classics were “the only races were I can actually help (teammates).”
“I want to race, you know? I miss that,” he said. “I’ve been so well protected. My team does all my work for me — they’re incredible guys — and I don’t really have to do anything anymore. I kind of miss that. I want to be able to get involved in the racing, help someone else and get some experience in those races I’ve been wanting to do since I turned pro but I wasn’t allowed.”
Cavendish said it was a bit of a fight convincing team management to let him race.
“They don’t want me to put myself at any risk,” he said. “But if I go to a hilly race, and I’m dropped, and I’m going full-gas on the descent, that’s more dangerous than racing with some experienced bike riders in the Tour of Flanders.”
Sitting in a gymnasium after winning Scheldeprijs for the third time, Cavendish lit up when talking about riding Paris-Roubaix. He said he had no personal ambition, but was still excited to fulfill a childhood dream.
“At the minute, there’s no ambition, there’s dreams,” he said. “But dreams aren’t realistic, you know? You can ask many riders if they’d want to win these races and they’d say yeah. But wanting to, and thinking you can are two different thing, you know? I still dream of racing them. I still watch them like a fan when I can’t ride them. I couldn’t ride Roubaix last year, I sat and watched it at home like a kid again.”
Roubaix will be Cavendish’s last race before he takes a break and then begins his build-up to the Tour de France.