Mark Cavendish is looking forward to a “special” Sunday, as he prepares to pin a race number on a Deceuninck-QuickStep jersey at the Clásica de Almería, which he won for the team back in 2015.
Cavendish raced for the Belgian squad between 2013 and 2015, and has returned for the 2021 season after appearing close to retirement at the end of last year.
He was named on the provisional start list for Almería two weeks ago, and the team confirmed on Wednesday that he would be part of their seven-man selection for the one-day race.
“Like every rider in these times I am excited to get the season underway. We are fortunate that the races can go ahead and I’m even more excited to pull on the jersey of the Wolfpack once again and race with the boys,” Cavendish said.
“The fact it will happen at an event which brings back a lot of beautiful memories makes it even more special.”
Cavendish will make his second QuickStep debut in Spain but it’s not yet clear whether he’ll sprint for victory. Previously prolific, the 35-year-old has not won a race in three years and, despite insisting he’s not in “fairytale land” when it comes to his ambitions, he recently insisted he’s “still good”.
Deceuninck-QuickStep will also have the option of Colombian sprinter Álvaro Hodeg, who is himself looking to get back to winning ways after bursting onto the scene in 2018 and 2019 but struggling last year.
“Almería is for all our riders at the start the first appointment of the year. It’s a very beautiful race that usually ends with a sprint. We have two guys who can be up there, Mark and Alvaro, and we will decide during the race what we will do,” said team director Wilfried Peeters.
Zdenek Štybar was in the team’s provisional squad but will no longer take part. Instead, the seven-man line-up is completed by Florian Sénéchal, Tim Declercq, Jannik Steimle, and Bert Van Lerberghe.
The 183km race heads for the hills in the opening couple of hours but the largely flat final 90km make a bunch sprint a likely outcome.
“Tim, Stijn, Jannik, Florian and Bert carry a lot of experience and make it a strong line-up, capable of being prominent in both breakaways and the final, so we’re looking forward to Sunday,” Peeters added.