Cycling: Cavendish can start Sky life on a high after decent train times



Mark Cavendish's 2012 road to the Tour de France and Olympic Games starts here in Qatar's exotic (for cycling) desert landscape tomorrow – with much more than just winning as many stages as possible at stake for the Manxman.

For the last five years with the defunct HTC outfit, the American team's train of riders protected Cavendish to perfection in the frantic, 60km/h build-up to the bunch sprints that are the Manxman's speciality.

This year's six-day, 734-kilometre Tour of Qatar, will now see the Briton make his maiden outing with his new squad, Team Sky. And expectations could not be higher than to see whether Sky manage to emulate – or perhaps do better – than HTC in guiding Cavendish into a winning position.

Cavendish is more than able to win sprints alone and unaided, as he has proved on countless occasions. But as he put it so often about his HTC team-mates in the past, "without these guys, I can still win. But with them, I can't lose".

With that in mind, Sky have been drilling Cavendish's new train of lead-out riders relentlessly in Mallorca over the last month. But training is one thing and racing – particularly in Qatar's frequently blustery conditions, which can easily fracture a peloton – is another.

"We have no doubt at all about the speed of the team [in a finale]," team coach Rod Ellingworth recently told specialist website "It's just the final line-up of the team [in the sprints]. [Sky riders] like Jeremy [Hunt], Michael Barry, Bernie Eisel, they've got a lot of experience."

However, as reigning world road-race champion and cycling's top sprinter, his rivals will give Cavendish and Sky minimal margin or time for possible error or experimentation; the prestige of beating a rider with 75 wins and 20 Tour de France stages to his name is too great for that.

"It's the same through the generations, if somebody's the top you want to beat them because if you do that it pretty much means you're going to win," explains veteran Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen, whose winning style made him an early role model for Cavendish.

In the nineties and early noughties, McEwen said, "Everybody wanted to beat [sprint stars Erik] Zabel or Mario Cipollini or Alessandro Petacchi. It's like – get in line, you're one of many over the last two generations who wants to beat the best. It's normal."

That said, though, McEwen concedes that for Cavendish the pressure will be higher, "when you're world champion because everybody is going to look at your first performance and judge you straight away".

However, Australian Mark Renshaw – until this year the last, and arguably the most important, man in Cavendish's HTC train, said: "It's his first race of the year. And one of the most beautiful things to do, is come out in the world champion's jersey and win the first day. I think we'll see him in good form; he'll be hard to beat."

Cavendish has certainly shone at Qatar in the past. In his season debut race in 2009, his most consistent year to date, he took two stages there. The Briton has said he is more than keen to repeat 2009 and hit the ground running in 2012 – although perhaps not quite like earlier this week, when he had a minor training accident, coming off his bike. His bike and shoes were write-offs, fortunately Cavendish suffered only light bruising.

Suggested Topics
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show?
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'

Colin Firth and Emma Stone star together in Magic in the Moonlight: Woody Allen's 1920s romance

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Life and Style
The findings suggest that some of the genetic factors which influence birth size may play a part in influencing an infant’s mental development
health...while smaller babies have greater schizophrenia risk, study claims
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

March On Cancer™ - Local Marketing and Promotions Volunteer

This is an unpaid voluntary role.: Cancer Research UK: We need motivational vo...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Maths Teacher - Evening session

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: I am looking for a qualified experi...

Teaching Assistants

£50 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week