The 30-year-old competed at the Hong Kong UCI Track World Cup earlier this month, with Rio Olympic ambitions in mind, and has clocked some lonely kilometres in Australia in a turn of focus he may have to manage all year.
Cavendish has embarked on two four-day training blocks in preparation, last week with Dimension Data general manager Brian Smith and this week with teammates fresh from the Tour Down Under.
“When you come straight off the track and then concentrate on the road you need a solid week of training and that’s what we’ve been doing in the peace and quiet,” Smith said from Torquay, Victoria.
“It’s been lonely miles but the motivation is there and he looks well.
“He came here and the first day he did a couple of hours easy to try and get over the jet lag but the next day he was straight into it and doing three-and-a-half hours. I think it was just the excitement, believe it or not, of getting out on the road and not riding in circles.”
Cavendish clocked three-and-a-half to five hour rides more or less solo in the elements last week and has had to do extra than that of teammates that competed at the first WorldTour race of the season this week.
“Cav will have to do some extra efforts and hours on his own after they peel off because after the Tour Down Under they’ll be kicking back for a couple of days,” Smith said.
The 26-time Tour de France stage winner will replace Mark Renshaw in a team that is otherwise the same as what was fielded in Adelaide with Tyler Farrar, Nathan Haas, Cameron Meyer, Songezo Jim, Jaco Venter and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg rounding out the newly minted WorldTour squad.
Smith said the Africa-registered outfit has title winning ambitions and options in Haas, Meyer and Janse van Rensburg. Cavendish finished fourth in the omnium, the Olympic discipline he is vying for selection in, at the World Cup so is evidently fit but yet to get a true indication of his form on the road.
“It’s that kind of scary place where he’s ridden well on the track but how does he fit on the road? He feels good, he looks good, so I think he’ll have a good hit-out at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of riders on form and it’s a hard race so we’ll see how he does. After that he’s off to the Dubai Tour and Tour of Qatar where he can hopefully pick-up wins.”
Cavendish will commence in Australia what could prove to be a long season with stage victories at the Tour de France, a berth on the track at the Rio Olympic Games, and a title bid at the October UCI Road World Championships in Doha, Qatar among his stated aims.
Sunday’s event will be the former world champion’s first with Dimension Data, which he joins on a three-year deal, along with entourage including Renshaw and Bernhard Eisel, as a sprinter and mentor.