Cavendish counts down to Milan-San Remo
Mark Cavendish finishes his last race, the Tirreno-Adriatico, ahead of Milan-San Remo this afternoon in Italy's Le Marche. Two years ago, he won Tirreno's final stage before going on to win the sprinters' most prized classic four days later in San Remo.
The 25-year-old Brit won't win today, it's a time trial suited to his team-mate Marco Pinotti or perhaps World Champion Thor Hushovd. In fact, Cavendish hasn't had a chance to win since the sprint stages on Thursday and Friday.
Cavendish is, however, on target to repeat his 2009 win in San Remo. Team HTC's sports directors, Rolf Aldag and Valerio Piva - and Cavendish himself - says he just as good as two year ago, if not better.
Since Friday's sprint stage, Cavendish covered three medium mountain stages: two 240-kilometre days over the weekend and a 182-kilometre stage yesterday in Le Marche's hills.
Q: How have these mountain days been helpful?
Cavendish: "Really good, two times doing 240K is really great, with a lot of climbs. It was okay, good time both days, just riding and getting in the kilometres."
Q: What makes Milan-San Remo such a difficult race?
MC: It's not just about your strength, it's your position, about having the endurance to go 300 kilometres. About having the sprint and the power over the climbs after 300 kilometres, that's what makes it so different.
Q: What makes it so beautiful?
MC: "The same. It's just building up: Will they? Won't they? The whole second part of the race, is like that. From the point along the coast, when the race faces the mountains. That's what makes it so special."
Q: Others have been trying unsuccessfully for years. What would a second win mean for you?
"It'd be massive, it's a beautiful, beautiful race. It's a big goal of mine every year, I'm going to try to win it a second time."
To get his second win, Cavendish will face a long journey from Milan to Italy's Riviera. Once there, a series of climbs stand in his way: Le Mànie, Mele, Cervo, Berta, Cipressa and Poggio. Assuming he makes it over the last with 6.2 kilometres to race, he'll likely faces rivals three-time winner Oscar Freire, 2005 winner Petacchi, Hushovd and Tyler Farrar.