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Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) is expecting an exciting and unpredictable affair this Sunday when he kicks off his 2016 season at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Geelong.
The 174km one-day race will be Cavendish’ first outing in Dimension Data colours and will see the 2011 world champion join an imposing squad of riders that has just finished the Santos Tour Down Under.
“We’ve got a strong group of guys here,” Cavendish said at a press conference in Geelong today. “I think I’m the only one that hasn’t [raced] in the last week and I think the guys will be in superb form.
“I’m looking forward to starting off my season with them here at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.”
In 2016 Cavendish is balancing his commitments on the road with a track program designed to put him in good stead for the Rio Olympics in August. And while the two-time Madison world champion has done less training than normal on the road in recent months, he still believes he’s in decent form for Sunday’s race, having spent the past week training on Victoria’s Surf Coast.
“Actually it’s done me good to be here and be able to ride long distances on decent roads because I haven’t done too much endurance this winter; it’s been a lot of quality,” Cavendish said in Geelong today. “I’m in good shape but obviously I haven’t raced yet and I might give you a different opinion after I race.”
To win on Sunday, Cavendish would have to make it through three laps of a hilly race-ending circuit around Geelong. That circuit is almost identical to the one that was used 11 times in the 2010 World Championships road race; a race that Cavendish didn’t finish.
“I don’t think I’m going to be dropped […] on the first lap which gives me hope that I can at least try and win,” Cavendish said of his chances on Sunday. “I think if I’m there in the final then I’m with the best shot of anyone of winning but there’s some real strong riders here and some good teams. Really strong.
“If I don’t make it to the finish with the front group then I’m not going to be disheartened but I’m going to try my best to do that anyway.”
Dimension Data comes into the race with several strong cards to play. In addition to Cavendish the team will include Nathan Haas and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, both of whom climb well and have a fast finish. Haas was third in last year’s inaugural edition of the race (behind Gianni Meersman and Simon Clarke) having made it to the finish with the leading group of eight.
Regardless of the result, Cavendish believes the nature of the course will make for an exciting and unpredictable race.
“I think the organisers [have] really done a well thought-out race to kind of keep it close to the final metres,” Cavendish said. “It could be a breakaway, it could be a sprint, but you won’t know.
“Kind of like Milan-San Remo — you won’t know until the final couple of kilometres. It’s quite exciting that.”