Manx Missile Mark Cavendish’s targets for 2010 include winning the green jersey in the Tour de France and the World Road Race Championships at Geelong, Australia in September.
During 2009, disqualification from Stage 14 of the Tour de France for changing his line on his approach to the finish effectively put paid to Cavendish’s ambitions to beat Cervélo TestTeam’s Thor Hushovd to claim the points classification.
In an interview conducted at his team’s Lanzarote training camp and published in The Independent, the 24-year-old Columbia-HTC rider says, “Without that disqualification, I'm sure I would have got it. People can say what they like about how Thor won it by breaking away in the Alps. But it's a sprinter's jersey. How could it not be when they give 25 points for a win on the flatter stages, and only 15 in the mountains?”
While the decision to disqualify him from the stage came as a blow to Cavendish’s green jersey ambitions, the rider claims he wasn’t too disheartened, telling the newspaper: "So if I was disappointed with how I lost the green, all because of a disqualification, I wasn't distraught. If I had been, I'd have gone to the Sports Arbitration Council. Besides, getting so close proves I took the right approach, because I said the green jersey should come of its own if I won sprints. Instead I've got to take the positive and focus on next year's race."
This year, Cavendish took six stages of the Tour, including the final-day sprint on the Champs-Elysées which, added to his four stage wins in 2008, put him ahead of Barry Hoban’s record for a Briton of eight victories.
Helicopter shots of the snake-like train of Columbia-HTC’s white shirts pulling the peloton along in the closing kilometers of sprint stages were a familiar sight in this year’s Tour de France, and Cavendish acknowledges that his success in the Tour de France and other races would not have been possible without the help of his team mates.
"If I say that I want to do something or I'm going to do something, everyone in this team has faith in me. They supported me 100 per cent in San Remo, even though my chances were limited and when it would have been easy for them to ride their own race. When I go all-out for green next July, I know I'll have had all eight guys supporting me all the way. I know I can count on them, and that makes all the difference."
While he’ll clearly be aiming to build on his record of ten stage wins in the 2010 edition of the Tour de France, Cavendish also plans to add to the three individual stages of the Giro d’Italia he won this year, where he also helped Columbia-HTC win the team time trial. That’s despite his team wanting him to ride instead in the shorter Tour of California, which has been moved back in the calendar next year, meaning it now clashes with the Italian race.
Cavendish, however, plays down concerns that his busy racing schedule could lead to his becoming burnt out, telling The Independent: "The team get a bit concerned with my race programme but at the end of the day, when I'm not racing, I'm training and I prefer to race. So I'm racing to get in good condition. It gets me focused, I get a regime, a massage, I eat properly and sleep properly and I haven't got the distractions of home. Even in my first year as a pro, if you included the track, I raced 120 days, and that's a lot (the normal level is 100 days maximum). But I really didn't mind then and I don't mind now. It's no secret that I'm passionate about racing."
Unlike this year, when the World Championship course in Mendrisio was ill-suited to the Manxman’s talents, meaning that he was always likely to play a support role in the GB team – as it turned out, he missed that race after a lung infection that caused him to withdraw from the Tour of Missouri and ended his season early – Cavendish also has an eye on winning the World Championships in Geelong, Australia.
Targeting that race means, however, that Cavendish will skip the lucrative post-Tour de France criterium circuit and instead he plans to ride in the Vuelta as preparation for Geelong. That race which starts in Melbourne, finishes with 11 laps of a circuit through Geelong, current World Champion Cadel Evans’ home city, that includes a couple of short but nasty climbs.
And if the Columbia-HTC sprinter does ride in the Giro d’Italia, participation in the Vuelta would give him the opportunity to complete a hat-trick of stage wins in all three Grand Tours in the same season, something that only Mario Cipollini has managed since the turn of the Millennium.
Despite his success, Cavendish believes that it is Sir Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins who are better-suited to playing an ambassadorial role for cycling in Britain.
"Sir Chris got the BBC Sports Personality of the Year last year and that was great because he was and is a brilliant ambassador for the sport and everybody was really impressed," he claims.
"Then if your fanbase is British like Bradley's, he's a perfect face for the British market,” Cavendish added. “But if you're trying to do everything and win as much as you can in road cycling like I am, not just the Tour de France, then you end up with more of an international profile."
Here, perhaps, the usually supremely confident Cavendish is perhaps being a bit too modest. The fact is that his exploits, particularly in the Tour de France, have won him recognition from the wider public, and at this year’s final stage of the Tour of Britain, his name, along with that of Wiggins, was the one mentioned by passing non-cycling fans when they stopped to ask who was riding.
His wider fame was also reinforced earlier this month when he was voted fourth by viewers in this year’s BBC Sports Personality of The Year poll.
And should Cavendish succeed in his goals for the season and become the first-ever Briton to win the Tour de France green jersey, and the only one after Tom Simpson in 1967 to don the rainbow jersey for wining the World Championship Road Race, there’s every chance he will be placed higher when next year’s Sports Personality of The Year trophy is awarded.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.