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“The more they race together the better. That’s a fact. Cav and Renshaw probably did the most races together,” Holm said. “Our lead-out train is working. I think we’ve done our homework well.”

Photo: OPQS / Tim De Waele

ALESSANDRO PETACCHI

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MARK CAVENDISH

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MARK RENSHAW

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QUICK-STEP - ALPHA VINYL

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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24.05.2014 @ 11:10 Posted by Aleksandra Górska

A desire to win the points classification at last year’s Giro d’Italia very likely prevented Mark Cavendish from performing at his best at the Tour de France, and thus Manxman follows a more relaxed race programme this season towards his most important showdown in the British opening of the French grand tour.

 

Even though an illness forced Cavendish out of some of the events in 2014, the Omega Pharma-Quick Step sports director insisted that different schedule including less racing days and bigger focus on training instead was a deliberate decision which should pay dividends when it comes to July.

 

It’s not a secret that the Yorkshire Tour de France opener is exceptionally close to Cavendish’ heart and the 29-year old sprinter aims to be the first man to wear the most coveted jersey in cycling after its first stage comes to its conclusion near his family house.

 

“That was basically my idea the whole year because last year he did a lot,” Holm told Cycling Weekly. “He did a load of races last year and I always felt a bit guilty about it. He was new in the team and won from February to the Tour of Britain so he was busy the whole year and I was worrying. I thought maybe a little bit less this year, a little bit more training.”

 

“Normally if it was up to me I would have pulled him out after two weeks but he really wanted to win that sprinter jersey,” Holm recalled of the Giro.

 

“Nobody knows that, maybe it’s bollocks to say, but let’s say it cost him a stage win at the Tour de France, or Paris, because he was too tired, he would still have done it because it was important for him to win the points jersey in all three Grand Tours.”

 

Usually it’s all about numbers when it comes to assessing sprinters’ seasonal achievements, and in terms of pure numbers Cavendish enjoyed a good year in 2013. However, the measure of success applied to most of peloton’s fast finishers is insufficient when results of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider are discussed, since exceptionally high expectations make a quality of his victories equally important as their quantity, and rare yet significant defeats were more memorable than a string of minor stage wins last season.

 

Thus, the Belgian team re-united Manxman with his former best lead-out man Mark Renshaw and added brought back to life Alessandro Petacchi to create a new magic formula for the 2014 season. Even though according to some rumours Renshaw and Petacchi didn’t come along famously from the very beginning of their cooperation, the mechanism in the Omega Pharma-Quick Step lead out train slowly started to function and everything suggests that what appeared to be a truly formidable combination on-paper will be turned into reality by July.

 

“The more they race together the better. That’s a fact. Cav and Renshaw probably did the most races together,” Holm said.

 

“He’s doing his job but of course with Renshaw he needs somebody ahead of him and somebody ahead of him. Renshaw is never really better than the guy ahead of him,” Holm said.

 

As it is a case for most teams this time of the year, despite a few certain points the composition of Belgian team’s roster for the Tour de France is yet to be decided.

 

“The sports directors are going to catch up, share our experiences and how it worked,” Holm said. “Then we have to see what shape they’re in when we’re heading into [the Tour of] Switzerland and the Dauphine and then we’ll make selection. It’s going to take us a few hours.”

 

Hold admitted that losing stages to Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano), already crowned by some the fastest man in the peloton, and Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) in last year’s Tour de France was a huge blow to Cavendish, but it always is for a sprinter. He also pointed out that despite doing everything right in terms of preparations and fine-tuning lead-out train, the final outcome of hectic finales of flat grand tour stages are unpredictable and slightest details are separating victories from defeats.

 

“Being beaten for a sprinter is never funny. It was not funny last year, it’s not funny this year when he’s beaten but that’s life. You have to get over that,” said Holm.

 

“Even if Cav won five stages I would never say it was perfect because it’s never going to be,” said Holm.

 

“To underestimate Lotto [Belisol] or Giant, Greipel or Kittel, would be bloody stupid. We have to keep the respect of them and see how we have to do it. We have to figure out who is going to ride on the flat and so on.

 

“We could be boxed in the last corner, crash or puncture and forget it. You saw what happened last year in the first stage,” he continued referring to the crash-marred Corsica opener.

 

“Our lead-out train is working. I think we’ve done our homework well.”

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