Mark Cavendish showed today in Australia that he is ready to duel with former team-mate André Greipel at the Tour Down Under (January 18-23). He responded playfully to questions about their relationship, which made headlines last year when they criticised each other in the press.

“Some of you don’t know, we are actually lovers. We both refrain from saying that,” Cavendish said. “There you go, you got your headline.”

Cavendish won five Tour de France stages last year to bring his career total to 15. With wins such as Milan-San Remo, he is the best sprinter currently racing. Greipel won just as many races in his years with team HTC, though most were at less important races than where Cavendish took his wins. This was something Cavendish pointed out in the press last year.

Greipel left team HTC at the end of the year and joined Belgian team Omega Pharma-Lotto. He took several of Cavendish’s former helpers with him. The duo will face each other in a sprint for the first time since 2006 in the Tour Down Under’s pre-race criterium in Adelaide tomorrow.

“We were having a bit of a Skype chat last night,” Cavendish said.

He actually is unable to remember the last time they talked, but showed he is ready to have some fun with journalists who ask about the Cavendish-Greipel duel.

“There are some guys you don’t speak too much on the team if you never race with them.”

HTC’s team manager, Bob Stapleton, separated the two sprinters after the 2008 Giro d’Italia, when Cavendish made his breakthrough as a Grand Tour sprinter. Stapleton said earlier last year that it made sense so that his team could win more races.

Last year’s Tour Down Under winner Greipel, now with Omega Pharma, will be able to face Cavendish not only at the TdU, but also at some of the most important races for sprinters, including the Tour de France and Milan-San Remo.

Cavendish is ready for the challenge, but talk of the duel may wear his patience thin. When a journalist asked him about Lance Armstrong’s last appearance at the Tour Down Under, Cavendish indicated that he didn’t like questions about his rivalry with Greipel.

“It is potentially my last ride,” Cavendish said, “if I get any more questions about André Greipel.”

Related links

Tour Down Under 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

Armstrong in Adelaide: One more time

Tour Down Under 2011: Who will win?

Tour Down Under 2011: Start list

Farrar heads Garmin-Cervelo’s Down Under assault

Cavendish to face Greipel Down Under with in-form Goss

Cavendish to start 2011 Tour Down Under

Farrar to ride Tour Down Under

 

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