Mark Cavendish said he feels like the British public have been on the journey with him this year and the support he received was “something special.”
Cavendish came back into competitive form this season after joining his former Belgian team Deceuninck-Quickstep, and in July, went on to match Eddy Merckx’ record for most Tour de France wins with 34.
The 36-year-old Manxman is gearing up for Sunday’s road race at the UCI World Championships in Flanders, Belgium, having won the rainbow jersey a decade ago in 2011.
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On reflection of his impressive year, he told reporters on Friday he got an incredible reception at last month’s Tour of Britain by the public: “We missed a lot of the British public at the Tour de France this year through COVID and political reasons and everything and we really felt that. It felt like there was something missing, honestly it was an absolute joy to ride the Tour of Britain and feel the support.
“I really feel like the British public have been on the journey with me this year and that was something special that made me be happy about how it’s gone."
Cavendish said he always relishes the opportunity to represent Great Britain, and is confident the men’s elite team have a good chance of winning the rainbow stripes in Flanders on Sunday.
“It’s always an honour and it’s a classic too. People think that I just sit behind people and sprint but I can race a bike, and I can adapt to situations. I ride for a Belgian team, I’ve won a lot of races in Belgium and fortunately I think the team deem me capable in the world championships in Flanders,” he said.
“We are professional bike riders and we do it for a living, and the Worlds is probably the only one we don’t do for a living because you want to represent your country and that sense of national pride has an impact on how you perform.”
Joining Cavendish in GB’s men’s elite road race team are: Ethan Hayter, Tom Pidcock, Luke Rowe, Fred Wright, Jake Stewart, Connor Swift, and Ben Swift, and Cavendish said he feels it’s a strong team. “Everybody is in unison and it’s nice,” he said. “We can adapt to a changing situation.
“We’ve got a really strong team, Ethan was winning the Tour of Britain for most of the race and he lost it on the last day to the outright favourite for the World Championships Wout Van Aert, so he’s good. We don’t know with Tom’s form, but he’s a racer -- he did a stunning ride at Brabantse Pijl earlier in the year and I think with more experience he would have won even more races at the beginning of the year.
“It’s going to be a race that’s unpredictable. The main thing is cohesion and I feel we have got that, which hopefully gets us a good result. It’s up to everyone to adapt to different situations, really.
He added: “We’ve got strong guys, Jake Stewart who is cracking at this type of terrain. Fred [Wright] will be there, is maybe one who may not win but he will put somebody in a position to. Then Luke Rowe… the older guys who know their way around the roads.”
Wright and Pidcock are the youngest on the team at 22, and Cavendish said he’s starting to feel old as the new generation of riders grew up together, like his generation did.
“Those young guys all grew up together which I know from my experience when I won the worlds I had my mates there and it wasn’t just guys there coming to race as a team… [Ian] Stannard, [Geraint] Thomas, Brad [Wiggins], Steve [Cummings], [Chris Froome] Froomey, [David] Millar - we all grew up together, and that was the difference between going to work for someone and going to battle.
“It’s quite nice to see those lads have the same kind of bond as what we had. They’re going in as a unit and racing together and if you can spot things they can relate to, that’s nice as an old man.”
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