Train­ing wheels

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.

The National - News - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - Ahmed Rizvi arizvi@thena­

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.”

Kim Lud­brook / EPA

Odd An­der­sen / AFP

While Mark Cavendish, right, says he is not in ‘top shape’, Elia Vi­viani, left, is ea­ger to ‘take some win’.

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