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Looking tense prior to the start, nervously adjusting his bike beside the Etixx-QuickStep team bus and making last minute adjustments to his stem, Mark Cavendish was a very different person at the end of stage one of the Presidential Tour of Turkey.
The Etixx-QuickStep rider put himself under a lot of pressure to deliver and duly did so, thundering in ahead of Caleb Ewan (Orica GreenEdge), Nicola Ruffoni (Bardiani CSF) plus the rest of the main field.
The success came on his first day of racing following an early season break and showed that the work he had done in the intervening period had paid off, putting him in the right condition to immediately start winning again.
The success echoed his four stage wins in last year’s edition and, as it did 12 months ago, the stage one win propelled him into the turquoise jersey of race leader.
Cavendish spoke to the press after the stage and started by talking about what appeared to be a little tension between himself and Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) after the stage.
“He said hold your line but I don’t think that I did anything particularly dangerous today,” he said, smiling. “I know from first experience that your emotions after a race, especially if it is tense, it is dangerous in the final, you want to take your frustration out on someone. I don’t think there is any bad feelings there.”
Ewan was going head to head with Cavendish for the first time and pushed him close, moving quickly inside the final 100 metres and finishing just behind him.
Cavendish was asked what his thoughts were on racing him for the first time; he initially sounded a little dismissive, but then showed that he believes in the 20 year old’s ability.
“He is just another competitor, if I look at it bluntly,” he said. “Whoever is there we have to try to beat them. I am happy we did today.
“I don’t know if Orica GreenEdge had so much faith in him as they didn’t ride for the sprint, they didn’t put anybody in the front today, which is a bit of a shame because he came close to me. Hopefully they will put some more faith in him and ride for the sprint.”
Asked if the young Australian is a rider who could be a big rival to him in the years to come, Cavendish pointed out that others have been hyped up as possible sprinters to beat him but haven’t consistently done so.
“There have been many, many people in my career who beat me once and next thing they get a big contract. Lampre picks up everybody who beats me one time in a season,” he said.
“I think he is good. It is the first time I have raced against him.”
Cavendish is using the race as his first step in what is his second block of racing this year. It is the start of a path which he hopes will bring success in this year’s Tour de France, something he has worked towards for months.
Team manager Patrick Lefevere said that the result was a good sign.
“Winning is never easy,” he stated. “With a team like the one we have brought to Turkey, we always had a good chance of winning today with Mark Cavendish. We don’t have a GC rider here but, with Tom Boonen and the rest of them, we have plenty of men to prepare the sprints.
“Seeing that Mark won four stages here last year, we were confident, although winning is never easy. He hasn’t ridden since Gent-Wevelgem. He wanted to start the season really strongly, so it was important for him to take a break. The second part of the season starts here. This is where he begins his preparation for the Tour de France.’”