PIACENZA, Italy (VN) – Ahead of a bid to become the first reigning world champion to win “La Primavera” since Giuseppe Saronni in 1983, a featherweight Mark Cavendish (Sky) looks to be in his best condition since winning Milan-San Remo in 2009.
Looking lean and mean, Cavendish will bring a loaded Sky squad to the season’s opening classic with the goal of clearing the Cipressa and Poggio climbs and hitting the Via Roma for a shot at sprint victory.
“In 2009, no one thought I could win it, and the last two years, it was all about getting rid of me on the climbs, but my form wasn’t there,” Cavendish said during a press conference Thursday evening. “This year I have great form. The team is strong, the spirit is good. We’re strong enough to deal with anything.”
Cavendish says he’s already at his Tour de France weight – about 70kg – a weight he admits he hasn’t hit since 2009, at least during this time of the season.
A solid winter of training and the ambition of racing the spring classics wearing the world champion’s rainbow jersey coupled with his high-profile move to Team Sky during an Olympic year add up to Cavendish wanting to shine on the season’s biggest stages.
Cavendish is fiercely proud of the rainbow jersey and wants to honor the stripes with a huge season, ideally culminating with the green jersey in July and an Olympic gold medal in August, but first comes Milan-San Remo.
“Every race I start with the rainbow jersey is special, and Milan-San Remo is a very special race,” Cavendish said. “So when you combine the two, there are two very special reasons to race on Saturday.”
Cavendish won a stage and pulled out early of a grueling Tirreno-Adriatico to be at his freshest for the season’s longest race.
Sky will bring a loaded team, where Cavendish will share leadership duties with Edvald Boasson Hagen. The Norwegian also won a stage at Tirreno and says he’ll be ready to play his card over the Cipressa and Poggio.
That tactic is just fine for Cavendish, who says he’s at least as strong as 2009, if not even better.
“2009 was the fastest ever edition of San Remo, with the fastest climbs on the ascents. As long as I have form like that, people can throw what they want at us,” he said. “I have myself for the sprints, Edvald for the attacks. We’ve got it covered.”