Mark Cavendish says he has had a late start to his preparation for the 2017 season but still aims to ‘win something’ at the Dubai Tour.
DUBAI // Mark Cavendish said he is not yet in his best shape yet following a later than usual start to his season, but the 2015 Dubai Tour champion will still be looking to “win something” over the coming five days as the world’s best sprinters battle for supremacy and the aptly-named trophy, Circle of Stars.
After a successful but long first year with Team Dimension Data that saw the Briton notch 10 stages victories – including four at the Tour de France – and winning silver at the Rio Olympics and the UCI Road World Championships, Cavendish returned to training only about two weeks ago.
“I didn’t finish my season until the end of November,” said Cavendish, who started his pre-season in the UAE and cycled to Hatta alongside Team UAE Abu Dhabi’s Yousif Mirza on one of the days last week. “I am usually a good month into training by then. So we will see where my form is at. I have been training, but I don’t think I am near my best at all.” Defending champion Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) and Elia Viviani (Team Sky), the Rio Olympics men’s omnium gold medal winner, will probably be pleased to hear those words, but Cavendish, 31, said there is enough talent in his team to still make a bid for the top honours.
“I have been training alright, but it’s different in racing,” said Cavendish, who is only four wins away from equalling Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34 Tour de France stage wins.
“Normally, I would have raced by now, whether it’s Argentina or Australia. So I was a month late in starting training and I am not in my top shape by any means. But if I am in top shape here, I am not going to be at the Tour de France.
“The Tour de France is the biggest goal for this year. It’s the biggest goal every year, really. I want to be at my best in July, and myself and the team will try our best to do that. “So yeah, I am happy with where I am now and I am glad to be starting the season here in Dubai. I would like to win a stage here, but it’s not important in terms of be-all-and-end-all.
“We will see what happens. We are here with a strong team. We got a good sprint team, Team Dimension Data, and we are just looking forward to trying to do our best in this Dubai Tour.”
Viviani, who edged Cavendish for the gold in Rio last summer, sounded a lot more optimistic about his chances in Dubai after a good off-season.
“I am feeling really good,” said the Italian, who has won Stage 2 of the Dubai Tour in both 2015 and 2016. “I have a spent a good winter, training in Mallorca with the team, two training camps. It’s the best way to prepare for the season. Now I feel I am ready to take some win.
“For sure, I want to start really fast and try to win.
“I am in good shape and I hope to take the first win of the season here. I think this is a good race to start off your season – one more stage, one more day, a longer race.”
Mirza, who represented the UAE at the Rio Olympics last year, will be flying the home country’s flag in the race as a member of the newly-formed World Tour team, UAE Abu Dhabi, and he is keen to impress.
“I am really happy to be a part of this new team,” Mirza said. “It’s going to be a new challenge, a new experience for me and I will try my best to put up a good show.”
While Mark Cavendish, right, says he is not in ‘top shape’, Elia Viviani, left, is eager to ‘take some win’.