SILKEBORG, Denmark (VN) — Mark Cavendish aims to win in as many sprint stages as possible in this year’s Giro d’Italia, and he believes there are six chances. The other days, he said, will be open to his eight Sky teammates.
“There’s a lot more than the two sprint stages that there was last year; there are six possible sprint days. We’ll try to get what we can out of that,” the World Champion said today in a press conference.
“We came here with a team built for the stages and, yeah, hopefully it won’t just be me winning stages.”
Geraint Thomas will be the first from the British mega-team with a strong shot at winning a stage. The 8.7-kilometer time trial in Herning’s city center suits him well, but he could see stiff competition from rivals Taylor Phinney (BMC) and Alex Rasmussen (Garmin-Barracuda).
Cavendish goes well in time trials, too. He placed third at six seconds behind winner Thomas at the 3.3-kilometer test in the Tour de Romandie two weeks ago. If he places well on Saturday, he’ll have a shot to replace his rainbow jersey with the pink jersey in the first two road stages, one in Herning and one in Horsens.
One intangible early in the race, however, could be the Danish weather, which seems to be turning for the worse. Tomorrow the forecast shows temperatures in the low 50s with clouds and rain through Monday.
“It will be similar to Qatar with the big roads and with the wind,” added teammate Juan Antonio Flecha. “Everyone has good condition, but it only takes a little bit of wind to break up the group.”
Cavendish and Sky will enjoy more of “la dolce vita” when the race returns to Italy. They are tipped as favorites along with Garmin and GreenEdge for the team time trial in Verona. A strong place there could also give Cavendish the pink jersey.
In the sprints, however, they’ll need to adjust to a new teammate joining the fray. Ben Swift crashed yesterday and went home with a fractured shoulder. Jeremy Hunt arrives this afternoon as his replacement.
“He’s a good sprint and leadout rider, but probably not with the speed that Swifty has coming off the track,” said Cavendish. “[The last man in the train] normally will be Geraint Thomas; we’ve been racing together as children. I trust him a great deal.”
Along with Swift, Thomas and Pete Kennaugh raced the track world championships in Melbourne. The two helped set the world record in team pursuit at 3 minutes, 53.295 seconds and take the gold medal. After the Giro, they’ll skip the Tour de France to focus on the track at the Olympics.
Cavendish plans to race the Tour to the end and then the Olympic road race on July 28. He may need to leave the Giro early like last year to be ready for that double. “[It's] a big year, he said about his need to stay fresh. “I can’t be on my knees at the end of May – even if I’d like to get to Milan.”