Manx sprinter Mark Cavendish will use Tirreno-Adriatico to fine-tune his form ahead of Milan-San Remo on March 23

Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) takes part in his final tune-up race, Tirreno-Adriatico (March 12-18), before Milan-San Remo on March 23. He arrived today for the week-long stage race that should prepare him for what he said could be his last participation in La Classicissima.

Cavendish said in a pre-race press conference: “It’ll be nice to ride Milan-San Remo maybe one last time.”

The 28-year-old sat in a packed room above the seaside in Bolgheri. The GP Donoratico climbs the cypress-lined lane every year and Tirreno’s second stage uses it on Thursday. As a side note, team Lampre-Merida’s Diego Ulissi married his wife in the same spot three years ago.

Tirreno-Adriatico was going to prepare Cavendish for Ghent-Wevelgem and Scheldeprijs but it provides him with a San Remo tune-up. Organiser RCS Sport switched back to the classic, pre-2008 course over a week ago after landslides and bad road conditions forced it to skip the new Pompeiana climb. Cavendish, who had ruled out San Remo, put his name back on the list.

“Tom [Boonen] has been aiming for Milan-San Remo,” Cavendish explained. “I wasn’t going to ride it given the Pompeiana climb but now that it’s out, it’s a chance for me to ride even if we still have other guys and ways to attack the race. I’m happy to go and try. There’s no pressure to win.”

He added that Tirreno-Adriatico gives him the Italian miles he needs in his legs before the 300-kilometre one-day classic.

“I’m not on top form,” Cavendish said. “Last year, I started full-gas and I was on my knees by the Tour de France. I wanted to start this year a bit easier be fresher.”

Cavendish acknowledged that he could be racing Milan-San Remo for the last time. The organiser is expected to try to re-introduce the Pompeiana climb next season, again ruling out sprinters like Cavendish.

“Now it’s even easier than the year I won [in 2009],” Cavendish said. “It’s the course from the last 50 years when I saw my idols win.”