• Mark Cavendish in action during the UCI Track World Cup in Hong Kong, China (Getty) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
British cycling sensation, Mark Cavendish, is ready to unleash his famous sprint in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race…provided he can hold on to the front group for the first 173km of the race.
Cycling Central

27 Jan 2016 - 9:01 AM  UPDATED 29 Jan 2016 - 7:50 AM

The Manx Missile, now riding for Dimension Data, is the headline name in Sunday's 174km race that starts and finishes in Geelong, Victoria.

The 2011 world champion has won 26 stages in the Tour de France, and is third on the list for the most stages won by a single person. He has also claimed 15 stage victories in the Giro d'Italia.

There is uncertainty about how Cavendish will go on Sunday, given the hilly course profile and the fact that this is his first road race of the season.

Cavendish hopes to ride on the track at the Rio Olympics and earlier this month competed in Hong Kong at the last round of the track World Cup series.

But one of cycling's most fiercely-competitive personalities has warned he is not in Geelong to simply show his face.

"It's not like I'm going to sit up and roll in (to the finish)," he said.

"At the same time, I don't think I'm going to be dropped on the first lap, which gives me hope that I can at least try and win.

"If I'm there in the final, I'm there with the best shot of anyone of winning."

Cavendish knows many other riders in the field will go into the race on the back of a solid Australian road season, including the Santos Tour Down Under.

Among them will be Tour winner Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE).

Gerrans wins the Santos Tour Down Under
Simon Gerrans comfortably wrapped up his fourth Santos Tour Down Under title after team-mate Caleb Ewan won the final 90km stage in Adeliade.

"There are so many other strong riders, some good teams. We saw how everyone was going in Down Under," Cavendish said.

"If I don't make it to the finish line with the front group, I'm not going to be disheartened."

Cavendish is a regular visitor to Australia. He rode in the 2011 Tour Down Under and competed at the 2010 world road championships in Geelong.

Hong Kong clashed with the Tour Down Under, but Cavendish might not have raced in Adelaide even without his track commitments.

"It's a little bit too hard of a stage race for the start of the year," he said.

Cavendish has been in Geelong for a week and while the weather could have been better, he has used the time well.

"I haven't (done) too much endurance this winter, it's been a lot of quality," he said of his track work.

"My form is there (but) it was nice to get some endurance in the last week, some five and six-hour rides.

"I'm at good weight and good shape, but obviously…I will give you a different opinion after I've raced."

Cavendish also praised the organisers for designing a course that will make for an unpredictable race.

He compared it to the Milan-San Remo one-day classic, which he won in 2009 and Gerrans took out three years later.

If it ends in a sprint, one of his rivals could be rising Australian star Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE).

The 21-year-old won two stages in the Tour Down Under and, along with Colombian Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-QuickStep), has massive talent as a sprinter.

"They're super-fast, you can see that," Cavendish said of the pair.

"They're good guys...well-rounded.

"They're the future of sprinting."