15 years on from a Giro d’Italia debut adorned in the colours of Team Highroad in Sicily, Mark Cavendish lines up at the race for the sixth time in Abruzzo this weekend, his goal over the next three weeks is simple but also about numbers, just as it will be at the Tour de France in July.
The Manxman loves winning and wants to take his 17th career stage wins at the Giro d’Italia.
Over the years, Cavendish has won in different parts of Italy, in 11 of the 20 regions; from Catanzaro and Naples in the south to Milan and Cittadella in the north – as well as a stage apiece at the Denmark and Hungary Grande Partenza.
Only one opportunity to bring that total to 12 lies ahead – the final stage in Rome – but Cavendish will have the chance to win again in Abruzzo on Sunday’s stage 2, 12 years on from his win over Francisco Ventoso and Alessandro Petacchi in Teramo.
Back then, Highroad chased down late attacker David Millar just outside the final kilometre, with Cavendish blazing past maglia rosso holder Petacchi 100 metres from the line on the uphill run to the finish. He is hope for a similar outcome on one of the eight possible sprint stages on offer at this year’s race.
“The Giro d’Italia is a race that I enjoy and has a special place in my heart,” Cavendish said on Thursday after a first training ride on the Adriatic coast.
“The nature of the course makes it unpredictable for how many sprint opportunities there are, but I’m looking forward to trying to add to my 16 stage wins.
“I’m looking forward to my first Grand Tour with Astana Qazaqstan. Of course, we don’t have a sprint-focussed team like many others. But we have a very strong team for hunting for stage wins across the 21 days. And, of course, a good mix of talent and experience to make the most and have fun racing.”
At this year’s Giro, rather than doing battle with names like Petacchi, Erik Zabel and Tyler Farrar – as he had done for 10 of his 15 victories – Cavendish will be sprinting against a new generation including Kaden Groves and Alberto Dainese, as well as big names including Fernando Gaviria and Mads Pedersen.
Unlike his years with Highroad and QuickStep, however, Cavendish won’t have a full dedicated lead-out this May, with Cees Bol and Martin Laas – signed ostensibly to work for him in the sprints – not at the race and apparently focused on the Tour de France.
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