Some have suggested he is bluffing but Mark Cavendish maintains Milan-San Remo is not a personal objective with new team and Classics powerhouse Omega Pharma-Quick-Step this season.
Cavendish has not been in the mix since his 2009 win but it was there he significantly downplayed his ambition and chances before besting Heinrich Haussler in a close two-up sprint.
“I’ve won San Remo, I’ll go and I’ll ride it every year,” Cavendish told Cycling Weekly. “I’m always going to be an outsider in the race but I’m not prepared to have a team built around me for it anymore.
“There’s a chance I could win like 100 of the other guys there and I think that’s about it. There are guys in the team that you can bank more on. I’d rather have the resources put there.”
It’s a turnaround from last year where Cavendish felt the most optimistic – since 2009 – of taking the title no less in the rainbow jersey with ‘home’ team Sky and under an intense media spotlight. Conversely, there’s been little talk of a major early season objective, which is what the monument was in 2012, with Omega Pharma-Quick-Step. Most of the media focus has been on leadership, stage wins and the green jersey at the Tour de France.
The motivated 27-year-old has enjoyed his most successful season start as a professional with six victories to his name ahead of Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, which he will enter as defending champion.
Two out of the three stage races Cavendish has started this year have not been predominately flat and required him, notably, to do a bit of climbing. The 23-time Tour stage winner was a replacement for Tom Boonen at January’s Tour de San Luis that attracted more general classification riders than marquee fast-men, and saw benefits in competing at last week’s undulating Tour of Algarve.
“It’s a different style of climb,” Cavendish said. “We looked last year and I think the problem that I had was I went really badly at San Remo. I’m not going for San Remo again but I was flat and really had to start working on my quality a bit more.”
Cavendish lost contact on the Le Manie last year, as Liquigas-Cannondale set a furious pace on the 4.7km climb, eventually called off the chase and for the first time did not finish the race.
“I could have gone for 300K and I could have gone at a good threshold for that but I couldn’t do the efforts that I used to be able to do. I think that was down to more flat style [races] beginning the season,” he continued.
“I went to Oman and, although there were climbs, if you’re not riding at the front you’re not really getting a workout in the peloton, in fact, you might be actually losing form…Algarve and Argentina is more a punchy style of racing.”
Cavendish confirmed a start in Tirreno-Adriatico this year, which finishes just prior to Milan-San Remo, only after he had seen the course was conducive to that same style.
Ghent-Wevelgem, which is a week after San Remo, is a race Cavendish, according to former coach Rod Ellingworth, “needs” to put on his CV. Teammate Boonen has won the past two editions but the addition of the Manxman will provide Omega Pharma-Quick-Step with another option.
Cavendish consulted closely with a nutritionist and paid more attention to sports science and numbers in 2012, with the Tour and Olympics July double in mind, but has returned to less structured training and said he is lighter than this time last year.
“With this team we’ve got more options than just to bank on a sprint. Tom will ride, I will ride and we’ve got every base covered,” he said of the Belgium semi-Classic.
Cavendish talks about rival sprinter Andre Greipel and closing in on his own career century win in this week’s Cycling Weekly magazine, out Thursday for £2.99.