Mark Cavendish, in a rare occasion, led-out a sprint. He reversed the sprint duties with Tom Boonen at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina. Boonen placed third and Cavendish gained credit with the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team prior to the Tour de France in July.
“I don’t know the last time I led out a sprint. Not in this team,” Cavendish told Cycling Weekly and journalists after wiping the sweat and dirt from a hot day off his face. “The last time I led out a sprint, that wasn’t a sprint, was at the Tour when Brad [Wiggins] won. Leading out the GC team really, that was probably the last time.”
Racing in the World Champion jersey, Cavendish helped Wiggins win the Tour de France in 2012. Ahead of last season, he joined Belgium’s Omega Pharma with classics and 2005 World Champion Tom Boonen.
Boonen managed third today, behind winner Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) and Francisco Ventoso (Movistar). That was the best the team could do after losing lead-out man Alessandro Petacchi due to stomach problems in Monday’s stage.
“We are a man down without Petacchi. Guillaume [Van Keirsbulck] is ill or not feeling well, so we are down to four of us,” Cavendish said. “I had to use two guys, leaving me and Tom. We went for Tom, we tried to stay on the Lampre train, they have the most wheels.”
Cavendish said that he opened up his sprint at 300 metres out and launched Boonen at 150. He added, however, Italy’s Nizzolo “is fast.”
“We can’t be too bothered, things went well,” Cavendish said. “It was nice, Tom and I are working well together.”
Boonen could be a close ally for Cavendish in the spring for races like Ghent-Wevelgem and Scheldeprijs, and later in July at the Tour de France. Working for him today helped put credit into his account.
“My goals aren’t until July,” he explained. “Tom’s in real good form. We’ve been sprinting in the training camp and he’s going good. It’s possible he can get a win. It’d be good for his head and show that he’s competitive. You saw that he’s strong today. When he goes, he goes well. It’s fun to do [the lead-outs].”
The team’s will have its next and last sprint opportunity on Sunday when the race finishes in Terrazas del Portezuelo.