Mark Cavendish is set to make his second debut for Deceuninck-QuickStep at the Clásica de Almería, returning to racing at the one-day event on February 14.
Cavendish, who faced the prospect of retirement at the end of the 2020 season, is back with the Belgian team, where he rode between 2013 and 2015. He joined his new teammates and old bosses at a training camp in Spain earlier this month, but his race programme was not confirmed.
This week, the organisers of the Clásica de Almería published a provisional start list and the name of Cavendish – a previous winner – is on there.
Given the raft of race cancellations and postponements in the early part of the season, Deceuninck-QuickStep are returning to Almería after a two-year absence. Cavendish, who won the race for the Belgian team in 2015, is joined by lead-out rider Shane Archbold, along with Classics specialist Zdenek Stybar, who’s racing the Cyclo-cross World Championships this weekend.
Also in the seven-man team are Iljo Keisse and younger riders in Ian Garrison, Jannik Steimle, and Bert Van Lerberghe.
Cavendish, a 30-time stage winner at the Tour de France, has not gone into detail about his programme or ambitions for this year, but did say he was being “realistic” as to what would constitute success.
“If I thought I wanted to go and win six stages at the Tour de France, I’m in fairy-tale land,” he said during Deceuninck-QuickStep’s media day.
“I’m a realist. I’m not looking to hang on to something or try to finish my career as I want to in a fairy-tale way. I just know I’m still good.”
The Clásica de Almería has traditionally been a sprinter’s Classic, and there are already several fast finishers on the provisional start list, which is not yet complete.
Pascal Ackermann, winner of the past two editions, returns to go for the hat trick at the head of Bora-Hansgrohe’s team. He’ll face competition from the likes of Matteo Moschetti (Trek-Segafredo) and Luka Mezgec (Team BikeExchange), who was third in 2019.
After winning the recent Clàssica Comunitat Valenciana 1969, Lorenzo Manzin returns as part of a Total Direct Energie team that also includes Niki Terpstra.
There are 11 WorldTour teams among the 22-team peloton, with QuickStep, Bora, and BikeExchange, joined by UAE Team Emirates, Movistar, AG2R Citroën, Astana, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert, Cofidis, and Qhubeka Assos.