Joining the Belgian outfit on a three year contract, the Manx rider is already enjoying one of the greatest starts to a season in his career. In his first race, Cavendish won the opening stage of the Tour de San Luis in Argentina to wear the orange jersey for a brief time. He went much better in the Tour of Qatar, claiming the overall general classification and points competitions by winning the final four sprints in a row. In last week’s Tirreno-Adriatico, Cavendish wore the blue jersey after helping Omega Pharma-Quick Step win the opening time trial. Two more Top 5 finishes followed in the coming days. Finally, he enjoyed (for lack of a better word) a strong end to the epic Milan-Sanremo race, finishing ninth in -3 degree conditions.
None of this was all that possible when racing for Team Sky. The British outfit were clearly more in the market for the general classification than individual stage wins, as witnessed by Bradley Wiggins’ domination of the 2012 Tour de France. It was Chris Froome’s turn at the Vuelta a Espana and, considering his podium finish in Paris and a highly successful Olympics, it was always likely that Sir Dave Brailsford would continue this strategy into 2013.
Acting as a domestique for these strong talents never fit well with Mark Cavendish. The 2011 World Champion gave his all in his mission to deliver energy gels and shelter Wiggins through the mountains, but he rarely got his chance to shine. With victory assured, the ride onto the Champs-Elysses was a rare exception and what a scene it was to witness Cavendish led to his fourth consecutive victory in Paris by a grateful Sky.
Cavendish’s time as a hired help is over, for now. His return to the limelight is much deserved, particularly considering the disappointing time he endured at London 2012. He now gets the chance to spar against Wiggins and Froome, despite their obviously different skill sets. Their first showdown will be at the Giro d’Italia, with a team time trial acting as the second stage. It’s a competition Wiggins is vying to add to his trophy cabinet and, despite it being a major competition, Cavendish’s eyes may be drifting more towards Le Tour.
The sprinter has never worn the yellow jersey, but the opening stage in Corsica is a time trial that will prompt another challenge between Cavendish and Froome. Putting the general classification aside with Froome one of the contenders, OPQS will want their main man to notch up several more stage wins in the pursuit of the coveted green jersey.
A chance for British riders to hold both the yellow and green jerseys in Paris? It’s a good time for British cycling.
Head to Eurosport for an interview with Mark Cavendish about his new team and what 2013 has to hold.