MILAN (VN) — Mark Cavendish was focused Friday afternoon when he met the press ahead of Saturday’s Milan-San Remo. The 2009 winner of the season’s first one-day monument will share leadership duties for HTC-Highroad with the up-and-coming Matt Goss.
“If there’s one thing that goes wrong in 300km, it’s going to take its toll later on,” said Cavendish. “Everything has to go right. In 2009 when I won, we had a team of eight riders and we used that team of eight riders throughout the whole race. I didn’t have one puncture, didn’t have anything go wrong and it just saves you compared to last year.”
Cavendish compared that day to turning over the ignition for the first time on a kit car. “I still get goose bumps,” he said. “It’s not just the image of the sprint, it’s how the whole race went. That’s one of my favorite days of my life. Every single thing went right.”
That was not the case last year when Cavendish suffered a poorly timed mechanical, swapping wheels at the base of the Passo del Turchino. After a long chase to the Le Manie climb and being held up behind a crash, he was dropped on the Cipressa and missed out on the finish sprint.
“You don’t think about it, you just do it,” said Cavendish of how a rider makes it through 298 km incident-free. “You don’t have to worry about it. If you make it so nothing happens, you don’t worry about it.”
This year if Cavendish falters before the finale, the plan is for Goss to be there in his stead. He expected, of course, to be there for the seaside finish. “If I’m in good form and everything goes right, I can get over them,” he said. “Gossy will get over the climbs, that’s a given.”
Goss acknowledged that if the pair arrives in San Remo together he’ll assume leadout duties, but did say he had his own dreams of glory on the Mediterranean. “If Mark’s there I’m going to help him,” said Goss. “He has the runs on the boards. He’s the one who won the race two years ago. We want to get the team the win, so if that’s me leading Mark out, that’s what I’m here to do.”
When he won his first monument two years ago, Cavendish had former teammate George Hincapie to shepherd him over the climbs of the Cipressa and the Poggio. He said Friday that no one rider can replace the veteran American — who he said was key in the win — but this team works as a collective, just like a year ago when they pulled him back to the front of the race.
“But we’ve got a diverse team. We’ve got guys who can win like Gossy and we’ve got guys, everyone’s going to be committed 100 percent to the team winning Milan-San Remo,” said Cavendish. “We’re lucky to have a group of guys — we’re all friends and we’re all after the same goal and we’re loyal to each other. It’s a big bonus; it gives you a lot of confidence going into this race.”
Cavendish looked down at the conference table in front of him when asked about his rivals like Rabobank upstart Michael Matthews and world champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo). “I don’t know,” he said. “I’m not going to think about that. I’ll think about what we have to do to do the job. If you’re thinking about other people, then we’ve wasted energy. You can’t waste energy with 300 kilometers.”
Mark Cavendish will wear number 111 (and sit atop his new Specialized Venge) on Saturday when the peloton rolls out of the Piazza Costello in Milan.