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TDF Preview: Cav Holds Court In SoHo!
London’s SOHO district is bulging with restaurants and bars that all claim “iconic” status as the next big thing – usually closing six months later. But one establishment that puts its money where its mouth is, and has for 60 years, truly claim to be a SOHO landmark is Bar Italia -coffee stop to rogues and Royalty alike. This morning it played host to a cyclist who fits all these descriptions, HTC’s Mark Cavendish.

Recently honored with an MBE on the Queen’s list, Sir Cavendish was in town to hold court and announce his intention to dominate every possible sprint in this year’s Tour de France.

Cafй Racer.....The legendary Bar Italia was the venue of choice for Mark Cavendish to tell the media about his plans for 3 weeks in July.

Having started, almost two years ago now, it’s obvious that Italy and bikes have a certain influence in my world. So when the call came from Pez HQ to get down to Bar Italia and get the low down on the world’s fastest road sprinter, I quickly juggled my diary and made my excuses for being out of the office. Never one to turn down a properly made espresso, I found myself squeezed into the compact bar area, with camera crews and journalist from all over Europe eager to find out how Cav rates his chances for July.

Interestingly (for a rider with 15 tdf stages to his name already), although he thinks between 5 and 7 stages could end in a bunch sprint he says “I will consider a single stage win a successful Tour and anymore would be a bonus”. Playing down his abilities I’m sure, but Cav would not be drawn on his Green Jersey aspirations, saying only that “If I get enough stages, then the Maillot Vert takes care of itself.” Adding: “The new intermediate sprints earlier in stages would only be contested for damage limitation, if necessary.”

Totally focused on the job in hand. Cav is ready to show once again he is the best road sprinter in the world today.

Responding to questions he’s been asked a thousand times before, about his climbing ability, the ever quotable Cav said “I can drop any of you (the Press) on any climb. It doesn’t mean shit if I come in 8 or 10 minutes down on a mountain stage – my job is to win sprints, and that’s what I do”- good point, well made I think.

Fresh from the Tour de Suisse he feels he has some of the best form ever, having had no major health set backs all season. This is ominous for his opponents, on whom he would not speculate. Apart from a specific mention to “watch out for Swifty (Ben)” Team Sky who he says is flying. The only other prediction was that Phil Gil (bert) would win stage 4 based on the non too scientific fact that it was on the Belgian’s birthday – a good insight into the motivations of a top Pro rider, no?

Relaxed and fit, Cav greets a couple of well wishers after his Press conference will he be smiling on the Champs Elysйes in a few weeks?

Sitting back and watching Cav handle the Press you can’t help but be impressed by his calculated answers and a certain coolness when pressured. He’s fond of saying “Cycling is his job, not a hobby” and “winning sprints is what he is paid for” but it’s obvious he loves what he’s doing and thrives on the challenge to keep winning, characteristics that mean he will always get results at the highest level. Motivated by being the best of the best, this confidence in his own bike craft is undoubtable, but he also complimented Mark Renshaw and George Hincapie as being the only other two riders in the peloton who he would trust for their racing judgement, more than his own. Outside of the TDF Cav also mentioned he has an eye on the Worlds later in the year and with the GB squad currently ranked 9th in the UCI list, it looks like he may well get the team to support him as well in Copenhagen.

The Manx Missile is definitely ready for launching and in a packed Bar Italia, today you will not find anyone that doesn’t believe Sir Cavendish is going to have a major impact on the forthcoming Tour de France. As the guy serving the coffee’s from the vintage Gaggia told me “ e look italiano, ‘e got to win“.

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