Britain’s Mark Cavendish netted his first victory of 2011 on the final stage of the Tour of Oman on Sunday.
With Milan-San Remo – Cavendish’s first big goal of the season – less than four weeks away, getting his first win under his belt was an important part of his preparation to tick off the list.
After a winless two weeks of racing in the Middle East, crashing in the stage-one time trial at the Tour of Qatar – which came after a crash in his first race, the Tour Down Under, in January – Cavendish admitted that everything had come together for the win on the final day. Not that it had been easy.
“It was hard – really hectic. And then there were the little bumps [cats' eyes] in the road, which meant you couldn’t switch lines or use the whole road,” Cavendish explained. “But then it was so fast anyway that it was just a case of hanging on and then sprinting.”
Cavendish revealed that during the laps of the 7km-long finishing circuit, he had chatted with his Quick Step rival Tom Boonen about the best way to approach the finish.
“We were saying we really didn’t know how to take the sprint – whether you should take the left-hand side of the road, or the right-hand side of the road, or whether you should come from behind, or what. The wind was just all over the show.
“Then in the last 400 metres, the wind seemed to be coming from three different directions, so it was a bit of a hit-or-miss sprint, really,” continued Cavendish. “But my team got me in the perfect position today, as ever. I did a good job of holding on to them, they did a good job of looking after me.”
Cavendish singled out HTC team-mate Matt Goss for particular praise. The popular Aussie rider won stage two here in Oman, and also held the red leader’s jersey for two days.
“Goss has been there every day, and today he did an incredible job,” said Cavendish. “He went, and I left the gap for Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) to get on his wheel, because I thought that if I went with him I’d be on the front too early, but no one could, so I just got a good run-off with 200 metres to go.
“He’s an incredible guy. We get on really well, and I’m proud that we can race together.”
The win came following the frustration of stage three, when Cavendish had been unable to hold Goss’s wheel, in what had been another hectic bunch sprint.
“Sometimes Tour de France wins are a bit easier – you haven’t got climbers trying to sprint or anything. But I’d tried the other day, and the first day also nearly played out well [Cavendish was second to Rabobank's Theo Bos].
“So it’s good – it’s nice to win.”
Cavendish will now head to Tuscany for the Strade Bianche Eroica on March 5, followed by Tirreno-Adriatico, from March 9-15, with Milan-San Remo on Saturday March 19.