By Ben Delaney
Mark Cavendish has not left a stage race since March of last year without at least one win to his name. The Columbia-HTC sprinter handily kept that streak alive in Missouri, grabbing the first and second stages.
This year Cavendish has won stages at nine stage races, including the Tours of Qatar, California, Switzerland, France, Ireland and Missouri, plus the Giro d’Italia, Three Days of De Panne and Tirreno-Adriatico. Last year he won stages at eight stage races.
“Since March 2008, there has not been a stage race that I haven’t won a stage at,” he said. “I’d like to keep that record.”
[He did not win a sprint stage at this year’s Tour de Romandie, but he did ride with his teammates to a team trial victory there on stage 3.]
During this streak, he has also notched up prestigious one-day wins, including the Italian classic Milan-San Remo.
He said he’s starting to feel the weight of the season, but isn’t ready to hang it up yet. Paris-Tours in mid-October is the last goal on his calendar for Columbia-HTC.
“I’ve been riding since February, so I am tired,” he said. “But even when I’m tired I’m able to win because I’m looked after so well by the guys. If we go to Paris-Tours with a good team, I know the guys will look after me, then hopefully I can finish off my season with a success.”
With the streak stretching out — and seemingly everyone expecting him to win — does he feel pressure?
“I don’t feel any pressure at all. It’s what I enjoy doing,” he said.
After Missouri, Cavendish will turn his sights to the world championships, where he will ride for his British national teammates.
“This race is part of my build up for the world championships,” he said. “I have no ambition to win at the world championships this year. But like I’m really close with my teammates at Columbia, I’m really close with my teammates at Great Britain. To be a part of a successful team there would be really important to me. I’ll do my best for them there.”