Slovak Peter Velits is confident the addition of British sprinter Mark Cavendish to his Omega Pharma – Quick-Step fold this season will if anything help rather than hinder his own performances.
Cavendish is set to lead the Belgian outfit at the Tour de France this year but that does not necessarily mean Velits, who sports director Brian Holm has tipped big things from, will have to sacrifice his own opportunities in time trial or mountain stages to be part of the former’s lead-out.
“I get a lot of these questions, ‘What’s going to change when Cav is in the team?’ The answer is very simple,” Velits said.
“I rode with Cav for two years in HTC and these two seasons were the best I ever had. For me, it’s much better because when he is winning stages the spirit in the team is much better and everybody is much more motivated.”
Velits was consistent at the Tour last year recording four top 10 stage finishes including third place on stage three to Boulogne-sur-Mer. But his best Grand Tour result so far has been third overall at the Vuelta a Espana where he rode alongside Cavendish, who three individual stages and the team time trial to secure the points classification.
The team time trial world champion could again comprise part of the Manxman’s lead-out train at the Tour in July but, situation dependant, is certain he can balance that with his own ambitions.
“Two years ago at the Tour I was in a train. It costs you a little bit of energy but still at the end you’re in a good position and you avoid all the crashes at the back so it has advantages and disadvantages as well,” he said.
“It depends on the directors and what they say in the car. If they say you need to go to the front and work with 20K to go then it really costs you a lot of energy. But if they keep it in mind that you want to try something in a climb, or try to go on GC, they keep you a little bit in reserve, then it’s okay, you’re not really sacrificing that much.
“We used to ride with him (Cavendish) and we know how it works. Of course we are not the last guys for him so it’s basic work we can do and it’s just how the team will cooperate and get the work done.”
The 100th edition of the race will once again be a focus for Velits who will enter next week’s Tour of Oman as defending champion after opening his season at January’s Tour Down Under in Australia.
Velits made alterations to his training throughout the pre-season in an effort to be more competitive this year and will concentrate on stage races including Oman, Tirreno-Adriatico, Criterium International, the Tour of the Basque Country and the Tour of Romandie in the lead-up to a May break.
“I’m not going to do the Giro,” he said. “I’m going to do the stage races and the Tour so it’s quite a big plan and I hope it’s going to be better than last year. Last year I had a few problems in the climbs and I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be. I was good in the time trials but not in the climbs. We tried to change something with our coach and we’ll see whether it will work out.”
A title defence in Oman was not originally a priority for Velits, who had hoped to vie for the ochre jersey at the Tour Down Under but lost just over a minute on the second stage, and first test for the climbers, to drop out of the running.
“I remember the other races, the first races of the season, I always struggle a little bit,” he said. “But I didn’t expect that it would happen again this year because my preparation, my training before (Tour Down Under) was different.
“It’s not going to be I will leave the legs (in Australia) and go to Oman for a holiday. If I go to Oman and I have good legs I will try again but the main objective was (Down Under) and then of course Tirreno.
“I just need a few races to get into the rhythm and then it will be better, but I think I’m in good shape.”
Velits and his twin brother, Martin, who are national time trial gold and silver medalists, respectively, showcased their country to teammates at a November team building exercise on a military base. The duo comprise a handful of Slovaks in the WorldTour.
“The whole team came to Slovakia and saw our country and could experience this. I think we were the first civilians who got into this (military) area and did all these things so it was special,” he recalled.