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SAN JUAN, Argentina (VN) — Cycling’s super-sprinter Mark Cavendish (Team Dimension Data) races into the “unknown” after sitting out six months trying to recover from mononucleosis.
The Brit, with 30 stage wins in the Tour de France, begins again Sunday at the 2019 Vuelta a San Juan. He has been out since the 2018 Tour and the RideLondon-Surrey Classic in July.
“It’s always a bit of an unknown coming into the season especially after a six-month layoff,” Cavendish said, “but it’s nice to get back into racing especially after a long time training.”
The international stage race among the vineyards and on the foothills of the Andes spans a week. The race includes four stages that should suit the sprinters, one time trial of 12 kilometers, a stage for the all-rounders, and one for the climbers.
He continued, “Everyone kind of looks forward to the season, especially when it’s quite a relaxed race like here in San Juan.”
The super-sprinter from the Isle of Man suffered through last year’s Tour without a win and ended his 2018 early at the RideLondon-Surrey Classic. He discovered he had the Epstein-Barr virus.
He had to completely stop riding and wait for his condition to improve. Given the OK by doctors, he began training again only in October. Every cyclist begins the season unsure of their strength after a break – and this is even more so the case with Cavendish who does not know where he stands fitness-wise.
“Nervous? Yeah, you never know how you are going into the first race, it’s the same for everyone,” he added.
“It’s my job. I look forward to getting back racing again.
“I don’t know what point I’m at, I’m just training, just doing what I can to get back from two years of mononucleosis.”
He travels from California, where he had been training in San Diego with friend and MotoGP rider Cal Crutchlow.
“It was a bit wetter than I had hoped for there but I got the hours in and I was able to train good there, consistently, and I’m looking forward to racing,” he explained.
“It wasn’t really high intensity, it’s January. Anyone who’s doing high intensity training now, the sprinters, aren’t really going to going that well in July. I never do high intensity in January.”
In 2019, Cavendish’s aim is to return to form by the Tour de France. His goal will be adding to his 30 Tour wins and trying to reach Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34.
First, he races in the San Juan province. He will face sprinters like Fernando Gaviria (UAE-Team Emirates) and Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-Quick-Step).
“We will have to see,” he added modestly. “I don’t know. I’ve been off for mononucleosis for two years. We’ll just have to see.”