Cavendish relishing his last shot at Sanremo

Mark Cavendish promises to honor Milano-Sanremo with one last ride — and criticizes changes to the Italian monument

PORTO SANT’ELPIDIO, Italy (VN) — Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) is relishing what could be his final shot at winning Milano-Sanremo.

When race organizers were forced to postpone the inclusion of the race-changing Pompeiana climb until next year, the door opened unexpectedly for Cavendish to have one more shot at the season’s first major date.

Cavendish said it was sacrilege to mess with the history of one of cycling’s monuments, and vowed to honor the race with a strong performance Sunday.

“I disagree with the change of the course. The Italian people, they have a big regard for the history,” Cavendish said during a press conference. “It changes the whole course of the race. It’s like painting inside the Pantheon in Rome.”

Cavendish’s dramatic Sanremo win in 2009 confirmed his arrival as the peloton’s fastest sprinter.

When organizers announced it would add the steep Pompeiana climb, sandwiched between the Cipressa and Poggio late in the race, he knew he would stand no chance to win again.

When rumors started flying earlier this year that Pompeiana might be out, at least for this year, Cavendish decided to take the challenge even though it wasn’t on his race schedule.

“I spoke with Rolf [Aldag], who said if I don’t race it, I would regret it a few months later,” Cavendish said. “I am a former winner, and I do step up for big races. We don’t know what will happen. Maybe I am not good enough, but it’s better to do it.”

Sprinters across the peloton have been readjusting their schedules to include Sanremo following the announcement that Pompeiana is definitely on hold.

Others, such as Chris Froome (Sky)and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), who could have chances to win with Pompeiana, have either pulled out or are debating whether or not to start.

Cavendish said he wants to make the most of what could be his final shot at Sanremo, especially with organizers promising the Pompeiana will be included in 2015.

“I’ve been totally focused since I first heard the rumors it might be out. I’ve been training specially again for Sanremo, trying to lose weight, without being a detriment to later in my season,” he said. “I am fortunate to get one more shot at it.”