From Colombia and Renshaw to a new addition: Cees Bol as a crucial factor in the 'Cavendish-35' project Cycling

From Colombia and Renshaw to a new addition: Cees Bol as a crucial factor in the 'Cavendish-35' project

From Colombia and Renshaw to a new addition: Cees Bol as a crucial factor in the 'Cavendish-35' project

He was sidelined for the past few weeks due to illness and the lingering effects of Pfeiffer's Disease, but Mark Cavendish is set to resume his journey to the Tour de France on Sunday with the Tour of Turkey. The British rider from Astana Qazaqstan will be accompanied by lead-out man Davide Ballerini, albeit without his final two teammates, Michael Mørkøv and Cees Bol. had an extensive conversation with Bol, in a year when everything at Astana revolves around securing Tour stage victory number 35...

Bol is now in his second year with Astana, and it's also his second year riding alongside Cavendish. The 38-year-old Briton was supposed to retire from cycling a while ago, but due to a crash that forced him out of the 2023 Tour de France, he decided to extend his career for another year. Cavendish is eager to clinch one more Tour stage win, which would mark his record-breaking 35th victory, surpassing Eddy Merckx. Who wouldn't want that?

In pursuit of this goal, Astana made significant moves last winter. While Bol had been Cavendish's tandem partner in 2023, Ballerini and Mørkøv were brought in for the 2024 season. Additionally, Max Kanter joined the team. On paper, it's an impressive sprint train, which was also given the opportunity and resources to train together in Colombia in February. Cavendish went on to win a stage there in the Tour of Colombia.

Bol plans to be part of an impressive sprint train at Astana

For Bol, this marks a new chapter, as the 28-year-old Dutchman spent his years with the current DSM-Firmenich PostNL team and last year with Astana mainly as a free rider. "It was my first time in Colombia, which was a fantastic experience. We had a successful training camp, and the special race was a fitting conclusion to a productive winter. Colombia is a different world, including its culture. However, since we were there for a training camp, the routine of eating, sleeping, and training remained the same," he shared with

The altitude training in Colombia also proved beneficial for Bol. "During the first two weeks, I had to acclimatize to the altitude, but after that, I adapted quite well. However, it took me some time to readjust once I returned home. I had hoped to feel good right away, but that wasn't the case. I'm not sure what caused it, but my body seemed a bit off after spending such a long time at altitude. It's common to struggle when transitioning back to sea level. Now that I've regained my rhythm, things are going well, but those first two weeks after returning home were challenging."

Cavendish's victory in South America provided a morale boost. "While it's one thing to assemble a sprint train on paper, putting it into practice requires some adjustments. Our performance in Colombia went smoothly, with one stage win out of the two sprint opportunities, along with solid lead-out work. We collaborated effectively there, and I didn't race with Mark again until the Tirreno. Unfortunately, we encountered bad luck with a flat tire in the first stage, and the subsequent stages proved to be too demanding for him. It was disappointing, but it doesn't alter our preparations for the Tour. We're heading in the right direction. While it would have been ideal to achieve consistent results in the Tirreno as well, there's no need to panic. The 2023 season was a good example that with Cavendish, we have someone who performs at the required level when it counts."

Read more below the photo!

From Colombia and Renshaw to a new addition: Cees Bol as a crucial factor in the 'Cavendish-35' project
Bol, at last year's Tour alongside Mørkøv, now his teammate...

Cees Bol in another wagon, but at the same time

Nevertheless, there must have been a hint of panic when Cavendish fell ill after the Tirreno. It's not ideal in the lead-up to the Tour, although the classic spring season was already a period for Bol to seize his own opportunities. "Maybe I'll have more chances; you saw that in the Tirreno as well. We went there with Cavendish, but then it turned out that there were two sprints that were a bit trickier. Those weren't for me this time, but perhaps later in the Tour de Suisse. Additionally, it's a major goal for me to be in peak form for the Tour and assist the team as much as possible."

After all, Alexandre Vinokourov didn't ask for funds from the Kazakhs for nothing. Results must be delivered, and Bol finds himself in a slightly different role in 2024. "Michael is now the last man. That was my role last year, but now I'm essentially doing the same job, positioned closer to the finish. Last year, with fewer wagons in the train, the priority was to keep Cavendish at the front rather than setting up a proper lead-out. That aspect remains unchanged for me, but now Michael is positioned behind me, providing the final speed and launching Mark for the sprint."

"We don't train very differently, mainly because the technical aspect of a sprint train is challenging to replicate in training," Bol elaborated. "That's something you refine through racing. In training, the focus is mainly on physical preparation, although this year we had the opportunity to train in Colombia, facilitated by the team. I feel like I'm still progressing. Returning from Colombia, I was in high spirits, so it was disappointing for me not to immediately showcase that form. However, I regained that feeling during the Tirreno."

Read more below the photo!

From Colombia and Renshaw to a new addition: Cees Bol as a crucial factor in the 'Cavendish-35' project
Cavendish and Bol

Astana in a dilemma: points or Cavendish?

It all sounds so straightforward, but Cavendish's absence in recent weeks had a third adverse consequence besides training setbacks leading into the Tour and missed sprint opportunities with his new team: points. Whereas Cavendish should have contributed to the UCI ranking in events like the Scheldeprijs, Astana often found themselves empty-handed during the spring. Bol, however, defended the team's honor admirably by finishing fourth in the Scheldeprijs.

Nonetheless, the Kazakh team is gradually paying attention to the UCI ranking. Only the top eighteen teams in the ranking after 2025 will secure a WorldTour license for the following three seasons. "While we aim for as many points as possible, we don't prioritize chasing points over other goals in our program. So, I wouldn't necessarily call it panic, but there's an awareness of its importance," Bol explains.

It's somewhat reassuring for Bol that he can still contribute to Astana's success even in races without Cavendish. The team's strong focus on sprints also facilitates this. "Occasionally, I still learn from Cavendish, but that's more due to the team's sprint-oriented setup, with additional support personnel like Mark Renshaw, who joined as a coach under Cavendish's influence. It's not as if Mark teaches me like a teacher, but I benefit from his experience. While my physical sprinting ability may not necessarily improve, I can maintain composure and make better decisions in the final kilometers. I haven't had many sprint opportunities this year. Being compared to someone like Danny van Poppel of Astana? That would be fantastic. Danny is performing excellently, so if I can match or surpass his achievements..."

Place comments



More comments

You are currently seeing only the comments you are notified about, if you want to see all comments from this post, click the button below.

Show all comments

More Cycling News