Mark Cavendish proved to be on song once again on Thursday prior to his early season goal, Milan-San Remo. Not only has he taken win number four so far this year, but an important psychological boost for the race next Saturday.
“I always like to win here in Tirreno,” Cavendish explained. “It gives you that psychological advantage.”
The 26-year-old won the world championships last autumn in Copenhagen, joined Sky and appears to be a new man. He no longer races in team HTC-Highroad and, in three weeks, is expecting his first child with fiancée Peta Todd.
With wins in Qatar and in Belgium, the stage race in central Italy is the icing on the cake. Another compliment or “Hey kid, you’re looking good!” prior to Milan-San Remo.
“I felt good today,” Cavendish added. “I talked to Bernie [Eisel] at one point and I thought about not sprinting, not to show how I felt, but in the end, we wanted to get a win here and so we rode together.”
Cavendish survived the small climbs in the final two circuits near Arezzo, home of rival Daniele Bennati. He survived a crash that took out young Australian Mike Matthews. And a one-two punch from team Garmin with Robbie Hunter and Tyler Farrar.
“I told him, ‘Nice job,’” Farrar said. “He won the sprint cleanly, nothing new there.”
The sprint came with some climbing beforehand. The small climbs failed to compare to San Remo’s Capi, Cipressa and Poggio, but they were a test. Cavendish explained, “It’s good to see how you can recover after these climbs.”
Sky team-mate Ian Stannard placed Cavendish for the first rise at 10 kilometres out and Edvald Boasson Hagen took him to the line. When Cavendish won San Remo in 2009, George Hincapie helped him in the final kilometres. Norwegian Boasson Hagen was also there that day racing for Highroad, but worked earlier on. He left the team and joined Sky in 2010, and now could fulfil Hincapie’s role.
“I missed him. We always worked really well together. This was the first time we’ve worked together in Team Sky. He didn’t disappoint me. I’m incredibly lucky that he’s as committed and loyal as he is,” Cavendish continued.
“We have a lot of great combinations of riders in this team. I think I’m confident I can go to many races with a different group of guys and we can win.”
Cavendish, coach Rod Ellingworth and the rest of Sky received a psychological boost today, but are still concentrating on the winning combination for San Remo. If they get it right, Cavendish will become the first rider to win it in the rainbow jersey since Giuseppe Saronni in 1983.
Mark Cavendish’s 2012 wins so far
Tour of Qatar; stage three
Tour of Qatar; stage five
Tirreno-Adriatico; stage two