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by Sophie Smith
February 10, 2016
Photography by Cor Vos
DOHA, Qatar (CT) – Mark Cavendish has weighed in on the course for the 2016 UCI Road World Championships; a course he is set to vie for a second world title on later this year.
Cavendish rode the finishing circuit of the Worlds road race as part of stage 2 of the Tour of Qatar on Tuesday. On that particular stage, Cavendish finished second to Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) on the line.
The 30-year-old has been vocal about his major ambitions this season which, for the moment at least, include a berth on the track at the Rio Olympic Games, the Tour de France and the World Championships in Doha, Qatar.
On Tuesday he did not talk about his personal chances on the circuit but made observations of the technical run that features more than 20 roundabouts, some tight turns and is partially exposed to the wind.
“It was actually quite a flowing circuit, more flowing than it looks on a map,” he said post-race. “It was just with the wind [changing] direction everywhere it’s difficult to try and keep control. I think you’ll be surprised how exciting it will be as a world championship actually.”
The peloton did not canvas the entire course during the stage that doubled as a World Championships test event, with a journey to the circuit left out of the second stage. What riders did see in and around Doha was a demarcation from the arid and wind-battered terrain outside the capital, which is more synonymous with racing in Qatar. Cavendish was in support of the central location for the finishing circuit, which is held on the man-made Pearl island.
“People that write in internet forums are going to want echelons but we’re not f***ing robots — we can’t do that for 260km,” he said. “So it’s quite a nice circuit.”
Great Britain coach Rod Ellingworth, as well as riders including Kristoff and Cavendish’s chief pilot at Dimension Data, Mark Renshaw, have likened the circuit to a criterium. However, that observation doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a bunch sprint that would suit Cavendish’s key strengths.
“If anybody has got a big lead-out train there in the final then they’ve got the strongest nation in the world,” he said. “I think it’s going to use a few people to look after their guys for the final anyway.
“[To win] it’s going to be someone who can sprint but is quite resilient over that distance. It’s going to take its toll, the distance. No matter where you sit in the peloton it’s going to be gnarly for the entire race. It’s going to be about endurance and making sure you’re in the best condition for the world championships.
“There is no real hiding in that race.”
Critics have suggested Cavendish has endeavoured to take on too much this season, which has seen the 2011 world champion finely balance his track and road race commitments already. He brandished track muscle from a winter spent training in the velodrome at his season opener at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, and missed out at the Dubai Tour.
However, the 26-time Tour de France stage winner has quickly recovered road fitness at the Tour of Qatar where he won the opening stage and currently leads the general classification.
Cavendish has been matched on the sprint scene in recent years but Dimension Data sports director Roger Hammond has speculated his best years may be ahead in what is a nod to aforementioned goals.
“You’ve seen what he wants to do this year and that’s not somebody that is looking at the twilight of their career and winding down,” Hammond said. “That’s somebody that is full of ambition and fight.
“That fire in his eyes is still there.”
The Tour of Qatar continues Wednesday with a time trial.