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As pre-race press conferences go this one wasn’t anything to write home about. The age of Zoom calls and their stuttered formats hardly creates an environment of spontaneity and flow, but even factoring-in that, Mark Cavendish will likely aim for performances more engaging and inspiring than video conferences once he starts racing the Giro d’Italia on Friday.
This was Cavendish ahead of his first Giro d’Italia appearance since 2013 and but for a brief moment of life when he talked about the strength of his team, his leadout, and the start in Budapest, very little drew his interest. Even the press he doesn’t deem “lazy” would have struggled.
“There are a few opportunities. I think. I’m pretty excited,” he said.
“I am prepared for this race, and I was prepared for the Tour last year. I’m quite relaxed.”
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There are more than a handful of sprint chances in this year’s race for Cavendish to sink his teeth into, and the Giro’s rich history and culture are certainly features that will bring out the best in the world’s best-ever sprinter, but he confirmed that the points jersey, along with the maglia rosa on stage 1, are not among his targets ahead of the race.
“The points jersey isn’t on my mind. I think I’ve said for over a decade that the points jersey is about being consistent in getting results. You start targeting that as the sort of rider that I am and maybe you miss opportunities.”
The team around Cavendish is certainly brimming with talent. Here is a squad heavily designed for the 36-year-old, with Davide Ballerini, Bert Van Lerberghe, Michael Mørkøv, and Mauri Vansevenant all willing and able to put in race-winning leadouts.
Mørkøv is obviously the most important element in Cavendish’s leadout arsenal but the Dane’s late inclusion shouldn’t overshadow the depth that the rest of the team has to offer.
“I’m incredibly happy. I love riding with Mørkøv. It’s not just him. We have a strong team here with Davide, Bert, Michael, Mauri, Mauro, Pieter, and Knox. It’s a good group of eight guys to ride around Italy with and be at the dinner table with. I’m very happy with this line-up. It’s not just Michael. I think I’ve got three incredible riders in front of me. That’s the biggest level of confidence that I have. Incredible guys that I can trust in front of me.”
So far this year Cavendish has picked up a number of wins — three to be exact — and while his form is bubbling along nicely, it’s also worth remembering that he came through a difficult winter that included a heavy crash on the boards of the velodrome in November 2021.
“I’m pretty similar. I’ve had a good build-up. I’m pretty happy with where I’m at,” he said of his form.
“Because I was winning early, people tend to forget that I had a punctured lung at the end of November. Of course it’s hard. I work hard. It doesn’t come easy.”
This press conference wasn’t easy either but come the start of this year’s Giro d’Italia none of that will matter. All that will count for Cavendish adding to his already impressive tally of 15 stage wins. Do that and he’ll have even more time to wax lyrical about his teammates. They’ll deserve it.