Cavendish's Olympic recce
Gold medal hope steps up preparations for road race in London
By Orla Chennaoui. Last Updated: March 31, 2012 10:54am
Mark Cavendish: Has completed a dress rehearsal for the Olympic road race
Britain's first medal contender at this year's Olympics, Mark Cavendish, has been making the most of home advantage by secretly recceing the road race course in Surrey.
The world champion took to Box Hill, the climb which is set to split the road race in the Games' first event, for his fourth Olympic-specific training session on Friday.
Accompanied by his Team Sky and GB team mate, Luke Rowe, Cavendish completed six laps of the circuit he'll have to conquer nine times on the way to the Olympic finish line.
As important as getting to grips with the climbs and corners of the course, is understanding the feel of the race route.
As Cavendish told me, it "gets hard round the circuit as it's pretty relentless", while "heavy tarmac in bad condition makes for a slow ride".
However talk of slow speeds is relative.
Friday saw Cavendish and Rowe average a speed of 38 kph behind the scooter of coach Rod Ellingworth.
As an average speed, with six climbs en route, it is hardly surprising that Cavendish declared it to be "fast for training", and that the Olympic event itself "will be a fast race".
"Nine circuits will really get tough by the end."
Mark Cavendish Quotes of the week
While conceding that "nine circuits will really get tough by the end" the sprinter, who has already established himself to be one of the finest in the sport's history, will relish the 50km from the last climb to the finish.
As long as Team GB are still in the mix, that is when we will see the goosebump-ing, heart-pumping effort to bring the Manxman to the line, and to do his thing.
There should certainly be enough support cheering on the ''Manx Missile', who is hotly tipped to win Team GB's first medal of the Olympics after winning over the same course in the test event last summer.
Despite attempting a low-key ride on the Olympic roads, Cavendish and Rowe found there were "lots of club riders out, and lots of support for us at the top of Box Hill".
While Friday's recce was fairly relaxed, the final dummy-run of the Olympic course will mimic all aspects of the event itself, with the week beforehand planned to imitate exactly what Cavendish and his team mates will go through in the week after the Tour de France.
Speaking at a training camp earlier this year, Cavendish's coach, Rod Ellingworth told Sky Sports: "It's not just a dress rehearsal of the Olympic course, we'll be doing that final week with similar food and have everything quite well monitored to see what changes we'll need to make for the actual final week."
The team will stay in the same hotel, eat the same food, and do the same training as they will in the week before the Olympic road race.
Explaining the strategy Ellingworth said: "We'll be training the guys... on the course so Mark will know exactly how fast he can go around that course for nine laps.
"It's a huge challenge that Olympic road race. The course challenges Mark just on its own with the amount of climbing that they've got to do.
"I feel quite confident that we'll be planned and organised enough."