Mark Cavendish believes team spirit is behind Etixx-QuickStep’s fine start to the season after sealing another victory at the Clasica de Almeria on Sunday (February 15).
Fresh from a stage win at the Tour de San Luis and two more – plus the overall and points classification – at the Dubai Tour, the Manx Missile took advantage of another well-oiled team performance to secure yet another early-season victory.
Though Cavendish didn’t finish the undulating Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia on Saturday, the 29-year-old on Sunday, with his Etixx-QuickStep team driving the pace throughout the day.
Cavendish went on to sprint to victory and his lead-out man, Mark Renshaw, held on to take third place and round off the podium, with Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) crossing the line between the Etixx-QuickStep pair.
And Cavendish couldn’t hide his delight at another comprehensive victory, which continues a great start to the season for Britain’s elite riders.
“It was perfect,” he exclaimed. “I am super happy and proud about the way the team controlled the race the entire day.
“We are riding so united. You can see it not just here, but at the Tour of Qatar where Niki Terpstra won the overall and they also won the team classification.
“Now we just need to keep up this team atmosphere and keep trying to win races.”
Etixx-QuickStep had dominated proceedings from the off, driving the pace of the peloton to reel in an early breakaway and then – backed by the firepower of Katusha and Movistar – causing a split in the bunch as crosswinds struck after the final climb.
With the Belgian super team showing their class in the blustery conditions once again, after Terpstra’s Tour of Qatar win, only 58 riders were left in the front group as the sprint trains started to form.
Zdenek Stybar hit the front with 450m to go, with Renshaw and Cavendish on his wheel, before the Australian burst into action.
And, just as has been the case on so many occasions before, Renshaw’s lead-out and Cavendish’s sprint left their rivals with no answer.
In-form Lobato was the only man to come close, but Cavendish stormed to his first one-day victory in nearly three years.
He added: “By the time I went it was just a matter of finishing off the race for the win.
“Yesterday I didn’t really feel good during the race at Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia, but today the team was really motivated.”