Season start postponed by tooth problems finally gets under way at Ruta del Sol

It’s hard to believe given the way he has stamped his authority on the sport in the last couple of years, but with British cycling fans’ focus in the early weeks of the 2010 road racing season being very much on the performance of new pro outfit Team Sky, Mark Cavendish has almost become the forgotten man of the peloton.

That will change this weekend, however, when the Manx Missile makes his season debut in the Ruta del Sol after a tooth abscess forced the HTC-Columbia rider to postpone the start of his 2010 racing programme, which originally envisaged him competing in last week’s Tour of Qatar.

The 56th edition of the five-day Spanish race – also known as the Vuelta a Andalucia – begins on Sunday in Jaén, with next Wednesday’s Stage 4 including a 10km individual time trial in Marbella, which Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins, currently training at his base in Girona, has his sights on.

It will be Cavendish’s first race since he was forced to abandon last September’s Tour of Missouri, which he was leading at the time, through a lung infection, which also caused him to miss the UCI Road World Championships in Switzerland.

Although the Manxman had been expected to play a supporting role at that race in Mendrisio, winning the rainbow jersey at Melbourne in September is one of his key goals this season, as is victory in the points competition in the Tour de France and the defence next month of his Milan-San Remo title.

Cavendish is also planning on riding the Vuelta as well as the Giro d'Italia as he seeks to achieve the rare feat of wining stages in all three Grand Tours in the same season.

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.