DOHA, Qatar (VN) — With a flat parcours and coming off his strongest season in years, Mark Cavendish is a good bet to win a second rainbow jersey on Sunday.
Or, at least, he was — until he fell ill in the critical run up to the Doha world championships after being zapped by an intestinal infection.
“I hope I have the power to win,” Cavendish said Friday. “I was four days in bed, five or six days without training. Three weeks before the worlds, that is far from ideal.”
A world champion in 2011, the 31-year-old hit some of his best form during the past few seasons, scoring four wins at the Tour de France and a silver medal at the Olympic omnium.
Cavendish fell ill in late September, however, forcing him to pull out of the GP Bruno Beghelli on September 25, and he skipped Munsterland Giro and Paris-Bourges, returning with a sixth-place finish at Paris-Tours last weekend.
Everyone will see how much that affected him Sunday, when the elite men are expected to race the full, 257km distance in the desert heat of Qatar.
“Before I got ill, I had more confidence than before Copenhagen, not only because of my form, but because the strength of the team,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe in my chances to win. I also believe we have the strongest team here.”
An eight-man team that includes Geraint Thomas, Steve Cummings, Ben Swift, Luke Rowe, Adam Blythe, Daniel McLay, Ian Stannard, and Scott Thwaites will back Cavendish. The “Manx Missile” will be counting on them to protect him from echelons on the flats in the desert, and then launch his sprint on the technical Pearl circuit.
“I want to be world champion again,” Cavendish said. “Positioning is important on this course, and having the legs to be able to do a sprint after 250km.”
It worked like a charm in 2011, and Cavendish is hoping to hit the repeat button for one more shot at the rainbow jersey. With the next three world championships set for Europe, with Bergen in 2017 and Innsbruck in 2018 both confirmed for much more challenging courses, Cavendish knows this could be his last chance for the rainbow jersey.