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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk