Mark Cavendish has called his year’s World Championships his “best ever” chance of earning the rainbow jersey – and the sprinter will have seven riders to support him in Copenhagen on Sunday September 25.
British Cycling fielded two teams for the London-Surrey Cycle Classic on Sunday, where both Cavendish’s Great Britain team and an England squad rode in support of the Manx Missile.
Cavendish only had two riders – David Millar and Jeremy Hunt – with him at last year’s World Championships and the 26-year-old subsequently abandoned after eight of 11 laps on a punchy course where Classics specialist and eventual winner Thor Hushovd thrived.
But the 2011 route is set to suit the fast man and Cavendish, who will fine-tune his preparations at the Vuelta a Espana, insists the London-Surrey Cycle Classic was the perfect warm-up ahead of his assault on the title.
“This is the best group of British riders we’ve ever had,” said Cavendish. “Technically we rode together [at the London-Surrey Cycle Classic] for the first time ever. Three of us were at the World Championships last year and a few were there the year before but together, as a team that’s in it to win it, that’s the first time we rode together.
“It was like riding with my trade team, like riding with a team that’s been together for two or three years and it was pretty spectacular with everybody committing to it 100 per cent.
“We all gelled and everybody knew what they had to do and they did it with passion and I’m incredibly proud. It was a spectacular sight to sit behind and see the guys working together as a unit for the whole day – from kilometre zero until the final.”
A string of strong performances this year – including Cavendish’s five Tour de France stage wins and Bradley Wiggins’ Critérium du Dauphiné victory – have moved Great Britain up to sixth in the UCI WorldTour rankings.
That would normally lead to a full complement of nine riders at the worlds but only eight British riders – Wiggins, Cavendish, David Millar, Ben Swift, Peter Kennaugh, Stephen Cummings, Geraint Thomas and Adam Blythe – are included in the individual WorldTour rankings.
UCI rules state: “A nation with fewer than nine riders classified in the individual UCI WorldTour ranking on 15 August 2011 shall start the number of riders that are classified.”
That’s not to say British Cycling have to choose from those riders when selecting the World Championship line-up, and, after Russell Downing and Ian Stannard set the pace, Hunt delivered Cavendish to the line with perfection in the Olympic test event to sound a strong warning to Great Britain’s rivals.