Mark Cavendish will target the maglia rosa tomorrow as he bids to win the opening stage of the 2013 Giro d’Italia.
The former world road race champion has twice worn the pink jersey of race leader and last year came within a whisker of winning the points competition.
Cavendish described the flat circuit in Napoli that will kick off 3,405km of racing tomorrow as “straight forward”, one that, despite corners and cobblestones, could provide the launch pad for a third stint in pink.
“For sure it would be a dream to take the pink jersey in the first stage,” Cavendish said.
“I’ve won the pink jersey twice before in my career. I’d love to do it again here in Napoli. It’s a special race here, the Giro d’Italia, so I’d like to get it started in a good way.
“I know my teammates are as excited as I am about this opportunity, and we are all committed to fight for stage wins whenever possible.”
Cavendish has already won eight races this season, including a victory on his debut with the Belgian Omega Pharma-QuickStep squad at the Tour de San Luis.
Four stage wins and overall victory followed at the Tour of Qatar, and despite disappointment in the spring Classics, where snow curtailed his bid for a record third victory at Kuurne Brussels Kuurne and a record fourth victory at Scheldeprijs eluded him.
Cavendish, who has property in Italy, described the Giro as “like my home tour”, and one of two races he insists on riding each year.
Last year’s campaign with Team Sky saw him collect three stage wins and spend nine stages in the red jersey of points leader.
The absence of his chief sprint rival, Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), as well as that of Slovak phenomenon, Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling), winner of last year’s Tour de France green jersey, should place Cavendish among the favourites for the maglia rosso.
He played down the prospect of improving on last year’s near success in the competition, where he relinquished the jersey to Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez with two stages remaining.
“My goal is to win at least a stage,” Cavendish said. “Hopefully a jersey comes from that. The riders who go in to hunt for jerseys are more the attacking riders like Sagan. For me, I have to rely on winning stages to get jerseys.”
Cavendish conceded that while there is “at least some pressure” to win a stage, the strength of the team made it easy to bear. The OPQS sprint train briefly derailed at Scheldeprijs, but is widely regarded as among the strongest in the peloton, and in Italy will feature riders of the caliber of Gert Steegmans, Iljo Keisse and Matteo Trentin
“There are not too many opportunities after the first stage on Saturday, maybe two or three for the sprinters, so we’ll see how it goes,” said Cavendish. “I will say that without a doubt, we can do a good job here at the Giro. I have confidence in my teammates and we will do our best.”
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