The decorated sprinter opened his 2018 season account at the Dubai Tour last week, claiming stage three ahead of Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin).
It was, uncharacteristically, Cavendish’s first victory in almost a year after he was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus in April, and then crashed out of the Tour de France in controversial circumstances.
The 32-year-old was a late call-up to the Tour of Oman, which starts today, scheduling it between planned starts in Dubai as well as the upcoming Abu Dhabi Tour tailor-made for pure sprinters.
“It was literally a last-minute addition,” he said. “I was supposed to do Dubai, fly home and then come back out for Abu Dhabi. Then I had a quick look, I didn’t even look at the stages, just the stage distances, and I’d be doing a similar workload if I went home. I’d be doing the same amount of kilometres.”
The Manxman started winter training earlier to make-up for an affected 2017 campaign, which chief pilot Mark Renshaw, considering his own misfortune with illness and injury, last month labelled a “shocker”.
The pair are up for contract this season and while Renshaw has said he is likely to approach things on a yearly basis, Cavendish yesterday wouldn’t be moved on his future or future plans in the WorldTour, save to say the Tour de France was again an objective this season.
The hillier Tour of Oman is the meat in the Dubai and Abu Dhabi sandwich, drawing interest from marquee climbers including Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and more versatile fast-men such as Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates).
Dimension Data is set to put most of its weight behind Merhawi Kudus, who finished fourth overall here last year and was fifth on the queen stage to Green Mountain.
“The race is bookended by sprints so I’ll give it a shot and see what I can do but I’m here without any lead-out guys,” Cavendish said.
“I’d like to support the climbers, the GC guys, support Merhawi, he was strong last year and I’d like to be part of trying to help him be successful here more than anything.”