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Mark Cavendish to Team Sky and will win 2010 UCI Road Cycling Worlds

Mark Cavendish will move to Team Sky and win the 2010 UCI Road Cycling World Championship, but not in that order!

I had an amusing exchange with a cycling buddy of mine this week that I wanted to share with you. It got me thinking ahead to the Worlds.

It started after Chicchi won the last stage of the Tour of Qatar, when my Italian American friend shoots me the following email:-

“On behalf of Italians everywhere, I would like to thank the new British Cycling Team Sky, for a wonderful lead out for our countryman, Chicchi”

Now if you were following the racing in Qatar you would have seen Team Sky on the front at the end of most of the stages, but failing to get the win. As background, I’m a Brit living in the US and have been boring most of my American cycling friends with tales of British track success for the last few years!

Now I have always considered cycling to one of the few truly International sports and the vast majority of my cycling heroes have not been British. Partly, because there have been so few Brits racing at the top level in recent decades, but mainly because the two races I love the most Paris Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders are usually won by Belgians or (ironically!) Italians.

Over the last ten years British Cycling has become much higher profile. It started with Lottery money for the track team, where the objective was always to try and win Olympic medals. Gradually, through having a proper system for identifying and developing talent, we now have more British riders on professional road teams than at any point in recent history.

So now we have a serious British pro team with Team Sky, Mark Cavendish winning at will and Bradley Wiggins just missing the podium at last years Tour. After years of hard work and disappointment suddenly British Cycling is an overnight success!

So what, you ask? I’m not British – what do I care? Well the reason for mentioning all this history is that finally the Brits have somebody to cheer for in the big races. Remember how popular cycling got in the US when Lance was racking up Tour wins?

Anyway, enough of the history lesson, let’s get back to our story. Here is the cleaned up version!

I fire back at my buddy querying if he is really American or Italian? I then get all jingoistic and tell him this is just practice, wait for the World Championship – The British lead out train will be fully dialled in by then with Cavendish on the back! Let’s see if Chicchi or any of your other countrymen (either Country!) get round him then.

He responds: – “You better hope Cavendish wins Worlds now! Why isn’t he riding for SKY? Contract Shmontract” Again this is the cleaned up version!

Now I’m thinking maybe this is a little premature – trying to predict the winner of a race which won’t even take place until the end of September! What about injuries, lack of form, crashes, breakaways etc?

Then Edvald Boasson Hagen wins Stage 3 in Oman after another great Team Sky lead out and as the old Poker saying goes “I’m all in” I really do think Cavendish will win. Here’s why.

EBH is not really a specialist sprinter! He’s more of an all rounder and was also at the time leading the overall despite spending virtually all winter in Norway cross country skiing and riding in the snow – wait till he gets race fit. This says a lot about how good this kid is going to be, but also how good Sky are at setting up sprints.

By comparison look at the difficulty Garmin had in getting Tyler Farrar (who is a specialist sprinter) well placed in sprints last year. Tyler is clearly fast enough and Garmin is stacked with strong TT riders, but despite this he was usually badly positioned without enough team-mates left to lead him out?

I know it’s early to be making predictions, but I really don’t see anyone beating Cavendish with a good lead out. So if the Brits get enough points for a full size squad they now have 3 or 4 world class pursuiters and some other decent sprinters like Ben Swift coming up, plus Hammond and Hunt from Cervelo. Most of these guys will get enough road miles to go the distance and will be well prepared.

On the second part of my friend’s question, Cavendish will only go to Sky if they prove they are as good as or better than Columbia at lead outs. He said as much in an interview in February’s Cycle Sport:-

“Whoever’s the best team in the world in five years time. I will be there. If that’s Columbia, I’ll still be here; if it’s Team Sky, I’ll be there”

He can now get big money from any team who has it, but I think he will end up with Sky in the next few years. They are out to prove they can match Columbia this year and come September the core of the Sky team will switch to their national colors and we will see a dress rehearsal of Cavendish behind a Team Sky/British lead out.

So yes my money will be on the Manx Missile at Worlds! I know Road World Championships are notoriously hard to predict, but I don’t see him getting beaten in a sprint. Sure guys will attack, but there are a lot of other Countries who will want a bunch sprint. Germany, USA, probably Italy and Australia as well, plus the next two years are on fairly flat courses.

So I am predicting Cavendish will win and if that happens Sky and the mighty Murdock Empire will make Cavendish and Columbia an offer they can’t refuse and he will move to Sky well before five years from now.

So there you have it and remember you heard it here first!

It’s not nationalism or favoritism, but cold hard logic, but I know if I am wrong I will be hearing loudly from every Country in the World, especially the one that wins!

Either way, we can do it all again in 2011 as Copenhagen is meant to be another sprinter friendly course!

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