Mark Cavendish will likely lead team HTC-Columbia at the Tour of California, not the Giro d’Italia, this May.

“We talked about it, but it is looking more like the Tour of California now,” Cavendish said in a press conference on Friday. “It makes sense, we have American sponsors.”

The Tour of California for the first time in its five-year history clashes with the Giro d’Italia. Last year, organisers decided to shift its dates from its normal February slot to May 16-23.

“It is not Italy,” continued Cavendish, who will defend his Milan-San Remo title tomorrow. “I like racing here, but it [California] is good preparations for the Tour [de France] and it is important.”

“It is important for Mark to be California, he knows that. The American market is huge, it should never be underestimated,” said Team Manager Bob Stapleton.

“He is popular there. It is Lance [Armstrong] and then Cav, [Alberto] Contador is not in the top two there.”

Stapleton said that the decision to race California is ‘likely’ and comes at the experience of one of his favourite races. Cavendish made his break through in Grand Tours at the 2008 Giro d’Italia, when the team was known as High Road.

“I have a lot of respect for [Race Director Angelo] Zomegnan and the Giro,” Stapleton continued. “It is one of my two favourite races, so it is kind of an emotional choice for all of us. It comes down to what maximises the team’s success.”

HTC-Columbia is one of three US-based ProTour teams alongside Armstrong’s RadioShack and Garmin-Transitions. HTC will send a separate team to the Giro d’Italia, but RadioShack will probably not do the same. Zomegnan is due to announce the Giro teams in the coming week.

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