Rider updates: Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel and Peter Sagan

With a brief hiatus in racing ahead of the Tour de France as many riders head off to contest their national championships, the VeloVoices team is looking back to see how our selected riders to watch in 2012 have performed over the past couple of months. I’m following three of the sport’s fastest men: reigning world champion Mark Cavendish, Argos-Shimano’s Marcel Kittel and Liquigas-Cannondale’s Peter Sagan. Each has added further victories to their palmares since we last checked in on them midway through the spring Classics, so here’s a quick run-down of how they have been doing since then.

Mark Cavendish (Sky)

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Results: Won three stages at the Giro d’Italia, second in points classification. Won general classification at Ster ZLM Toer.

WorldTour ranking: 43rd, 66 points.

After taking a short paternity break from racing to celebrate the birth of daughter Delilah, Cavendish was back in action at last month’s Giro d’Italia. While many sprinters climbed off their bikes ahead of the big mountain stages at the back end of the race, the world champion honoured the rainbow stripes by riding all the way to the finish in Milan, missing out on the full set of Grand Tour points jerseys by the narrowest of margins as Joaquim Rodriguez won the points competition by a single point. Crashes on stages three and nine hampered his challenge, but ultimately it was his failure to hold off Andrea Guardini on stage 18 which cost him the jersey. Nonetheless he took a hat-trick of victories on stages twofive and 13 to become the only three-time winner in this year’s race, taking his career total of Giro sprint wins to ten in just four participations. It was clear from several of his tweets just how much he enjoys racing in Italy and the passion of the fans:

Cavendish opted out of the traditional pre-Tour Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de Suisse to compete in last week’s Ster ZLM Toer, a four-day race featuring rolling profiles simulating the challenge of the upcoming Olympic road race course. Although he failed to win a stage, consistent finishing – two seconds and a third – saw him take the first general classification win of his career. (Fact fans: this is as many as Andy Schleck.) He has subsequently admitted that he has sacrificed some top-end speed for strength with the Olympics in mind, and his new-found climbing legs on the famed Liège-Bastogne-Liège hill of La Redoute on stage three caught the attention of no less a rider than Jens Voigt, a man who is not easily impressed:

Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano)

Image courtesy of Argos-Shimano

Results: Second on stage seven of the Tour of Turkey. Won two stages and the points classification at the Ster ZLM Toer.

WorldTour ranking: N/A. 5th in UCI Europe Tour rankings, 225 points.

The young German sprint sensation had a quiet few weeks after his victory in the semi-Classic Scheldeprijs in early April, managing just a single second place in the sprinter-friendly Tour of Turkey and pulling out of the Tour of California as a precaution after picking up a slight calf problem.

However, he showed himself to have good form as he built up for his Tour de France debut with two stage victories at last week’s Ster ZLM Toer. He beat Mark Renshaw, Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel on the opening day, before clinching the points jersey by a single point with his win on the final stage. Ever the polite young man, he was even quick to thank his Dutch teammates for delivering him to his initial win despite their adverse result against his own national side at Euro 2012 the previous evening:

Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale)

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Results: Third at Amstel Gold. Won five stages and the sprint competition at the Tour of California. Won four stages and the points classification at the Tour de Suisse.

WorldTour ranking: 5th, 253 points.

When I first profiled the Slovakian strong-man sprinter – or SuperSagan, as Kitty has taken to calling him – back in January, I said the following:

With Box Hill to be climbed nine times, the [Olympic road race] course arguably favours Sagan more than it does home favourite Cavendish. You heard it here first: put your money on Sagan for the gold.

Sagan’s performances over the past few months have only reinforced my initial opinion, notwithstanding Jens Voigt’s endorsement of Cav’s performance on La Redoute last weekend. While the world champion was bagging a hat-trick of wins at the Giro, Sagan claimed five stages – including the first four in a row – at the Tour of California on a succession of not-exactly-flat stages. His victory on stage one was particularly impressive given that he had to chase back to a charging peloton after flatting just 8km from the finish. Unsurprisingly, his dominance of the bunch finishes won him the sprint competition.

Arguably even more impressive was his four-win performance at last week’s Tour de Suisse, where he won the short, hilly opening time trial before adding three sprint victories, each on rolling stages with a combination of sheer speed, strength and bravery. He walked away with the points jersey, amassing more than three times as many points as runner-up Matteo Montaguti.

No one has better form than Sagan right now, and he will be a major threat in the green jersey competition at the Tour. However, it is not green but gold which he truly desires. He will attack – and attack hard – in the Olympic road race, and it will probably take the combined might of several national teams to contain him. Right now, he’s that good.

Previous updates: April 9thFebruary 20th

Rider profiles: Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, Peter Sagan

Websites: Mark CavendishPeter Sagan

Twitter: @MarkCavendish@marcelkittel

3 thoughts on “Rider updates: Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel and Peter Sagan

  1. Sheree says:

    Well, he is often right about these things. Remember the Tour last year?

    Frankly, I think the prospect of Cav v Sagan v Kittel is a mouthwatering prospect for the Tour.

    • Ha! Guess often enough and you’ll be right eventually. Although betting on Cadel last year was a rare instance of spotting the blindingly obvious (a man in tremendous form backed by a very string team) while the bookies were looking elsewhere.

      Interesting that Greipel is tipping Sagan for the green jersey, while Cav is saying he’ll do well to win one stage because of his focus on being ready for the Olympics. He’s probably being truthful about this, although Cav ALWAYS says he’ll be happy with one stage at the Tour – just before he goes and blitzes the field again. But Sagan for green looks a solid bet to me, although I wouldn’t be that surprised if he climbed off before the final week with the Olympics in mind.

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