Road

Cavendish takes ‘team boost’ with A-list Abu Dhabi win

Cavendish says he's confident with his early season form, and a stage 1 sprint victory in star-studded Abu Dhabi Tour backs that up.

MADINAT ZAYED, United Arab Emirates (VN) — Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) is the greatest sprinter in the world for a reason. The Brit performs when it matters, and on Thursday that was ahead of an all-star sprint field in the Abu Dhabi Tour.

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The race attracted almost all the top sprinters in the world for its first edition in the WorldTour series. Cavendish not only collected his first win of 2017, but did so in the most prestigious and rich circumstances.

“I take more of a boost that my team did everything right than because of the other people who are here,” Cavendish said in the Madinat Zayed stadium. “If I had lost today I would have had a lot of groveling to do.”

Cavendish last won four months ago, on October 23, in the second edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour. Then, the race held an autumn date and only ranked as a UCI 2.HC event, not WorldTour.

This year, the race assembled an A-list of sprinters with Cavendish, André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors), Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott), Elia Viviani (Sky), and Andrea Guardini (UAE Team Emirates).

A crash involved Kittel and Ewan in stage 1, so they were unable to take on Cavendish. Greipel placed second behind the ‘Cannonball’ from the Isle of Man.

Cavendish pulled off what many considered impossible in 2016 — to reconfirm his status as top sprinter. Despite being written off in some quarters, Cavendish stormed to victory in stage 1 of the Tour de France. With it, he earned the chance to wear the famous yellow jersey for the first time.

It added to a career that now includes 30 Tour stage wins, a Milano-Sanremo trophy, and the road worlds title.

Cavendish further impressed last year because, in addition to the yellow jersey, he aimed for an Olympic omnium gold medal and another road world championship win. He fell short in those races, but just barely, taking home the silver medal in both cases.

He not only relies on powerful quads, but he studies and applies himself well to build such rich a palmarès.

“Today we watched and studied the final last year,” he continued. “It was the same finish, and we did everything wrong last year, so we actually did make a conscious effort to study the opposite of what we did last year. We did what we planned to do.”

Cavendish already began his season with the Dubai Tour and Volta ao Algarve. With a winning boost, a second victory appears to be around the corner. The Abu Dhabi Tour features three more stages, two for sprinters like Cavendish.

These races prepare him for his early season objective in Milano-Sanremo on March 18. He won the race in his debut in 2009 at just 23 years old. Now he is an experienced 31 years old.

“This is not a confidence thing at all. I’m a realist. I know what I need to do and what I do…” Cavendish added.

“I know if I’m in form or not in form and for the season. I’m quite confident with where my form is right now.”