CRUEL BLOW: Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish receives medical assistance after falling near the finish line at the end of the first stage of last year’s Tour de France.
CRUEL BLOW: Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish receives medical assistance after falling near the finish line at the end of the first stage of last year’s Tour de France. JEFF Pachoudafp

Mark Cavendish recovers fast and wants more

AS HE prepares to start a new season, the greatest sprinter the Tour de France has seen says that after last year's crash he wants to go on for as long as he can.

After a crash as dramatic and painful as the one that wrecked Mark Cavendish's Tour de France hopes last year on stage one in Harrogate, you might think it would be hard to see any silver linings in such a resoundingly black cloud.

But as the Brit faces up to his ninth season as a pro this month, the Etixx-Quick Step rider says he knows of one for sure.

''It's added a couple more years to my career,'' he said.

''I can't imagine ever not being a part of the Tour now.''

Cavendish, who turns 30 in May, entering the decade when most riders finish their career, adds: ''I hadn't got a plan of when I was going to stop, but you know that (some day) you are going to stop. Now, though, I want to carry on for as long as possible.''

In seven participations in the Tour, Cavendish had racked up a minimum of two stage wins each time since 2008 to amass a staggering total of 25 by 2013.

After his 2014 Tour ended almost as soon as it had begun, he agreed that being forced to watch the rest of the race from his sofa was ''bizarre''. However, rather than sitting at home feeling depressed, he was not "moping around".

"I had a job to do, which was get fit and get back on my bike. That took my primary concern,'' he said.

The one piece of good news was that he was in top shape physically. Given that he was facing the most serious injury of his career - a grade-four shoulder ligament separation, with the shoulder blade sticking out at an angle for good measure - that was probably just as well.

''I was already at the peak of my fitness. I was 10 days to two weeks off without riding my bike and then I was already on the turbo," he said.

"I wasn't losing anything, and it wasn't like I was in the middle of the winter and I was in low condition and went back to nothing again.

''My shoulder hurt a bit when I was doing gym work in the autumn, but that was it - afterwards it got good really quickly.''

Two multi-day track races in Belgium and France have helped him to finetune his condition to a point where his Etixx-Quick Step team manager, Patrick Lefevere, says he believes the sprint star is in the best shape ever at this time of year.

Cavendish is more guarded, saying he will not be so sure of his exact condition until he starts racing next week in the Tour de San Luis stage race in Argentina.

''I don't know exactly where I am until that first race. I never do,'' he said.

"You can't replicate that sharpness you get from racing in training.

''San Luis is a nice race - it's kind of low key and I look forward to getting there.''

The team manager describes 2015 as a crucial year for Cavendish because he is ''at the end of his contract''.

Cavendish begs to differ, saying: ''It's as crucial as any other.

"I can't get any hungrier for the Tour de France - that's just not possible.''

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