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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 June 2007, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Cavendish can be a star - Museeuw
By Matt Slater

Mark Cavendish
Cavendish is fast becoming the new darling of the cycling world
Belgian cycling great Johan Museeuw believes Mark Cavendish can help take cycling to a wider audience in Britain.

Cavendish claimed the sixth win of a remarkable first full season as a top pro on Saturday and is now on the verge of a Tour de France place.

T-Mobile, the 22-year-old's team, will name their nine-man line-up next week.

"British cycling needs a star to take it to the next level - like Lance Armstrong and America. Cavendish can be that star. He is ready," said Museeuw.

Cavendish's most recent win came in the final stage of the five-day Ster Elektrotoer race in Holland. A textbook lead-out from his team-mates got him in front with 150 metres to go and from there the result was never in doubt.

He is an instinctive sprinter - he knows when to bury himself and go for it

Jan Schaffrath
The same can probably be said about the Isle of Man-born rider's chances of being selected for the Tour de France.

The sprinter-friendly Ster Elektrotoer was Cavendish's last chance to force his way into T-Mobile's Tour plans. And with the same keen sense of timing he has displayed all season, the Great Britain track star delivered when it mattered.

After the stage win, a delighted Cavendish told Cycling Weekly that he thought he had done enough to book his place on the starting ramp in London on 7 July.

"Barring accident or illness, I think I'll be going. I've been named in a short-list of 13 already," he said. "I'm waiting for the official confirmation, though."

And T-Mobile sporting director Jan Schaffrath said: "I am delighted for Mark, who again showed how exceptionally fast he is against a very strong field.

"He really is an instinctive sprinter. He knows when to bury himself and go for it."

Mark Cavendish
Cavendish wins Catalunya's second stage, a day after turning 22
A place in cycling's most prestigious race would be an awesome achievement for a still relatively inexperienced rider, particularly in a team as strong as T-Mobile.

Only last month, Cavendish, who has won world championship and Commonwealth golds on the track, told BBC Sport he did not think he was ready for the Tour de France yet.

"The Tour is completely different to any other event, but I hope to be doing it within the next couple of years," he said.

"I would definitely be up for the Tour of Britain again (in September), but I don't know anything about my schedule for the second half of the season yet.

"That's the thing about being a first-year rider - they're seeing how far they can push me, and then we'll see where we can take things in the second year."

But one week after that interview Cavendish took a Lewis Hamilton-like step forward by winning two stages in the Tour of Catalunya - a highly respected race on cycling's ProTour calendar.

British cycling is much stronger now and Cavendish is at the front of that -he could be Britain's (Tom) Boonen

Johan Museeuw
Looking back on those triumphs last week, Cavendish said: "It's like a dream sometimes, I never thought I'd be celebrating two ProTour stage wins in my first pro season."

And those top-tier victories followed his earlier wins in the Four Days of Dunkirk event - where he claimed two stages and the points jersey - and the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen one-day race in Belgium.

It was that Belgian success that brought Cavendish to the attention of Museeuw, who started his long career as a sprinter before becoming a feared one-day specialist.

It was the quality of the field that Cavendish beat that day - riders of the calibre of Robbie McEwen and Erik Zabel - as well as the list of winners that he joined - Tom Boonen, Mario Cippolini, McEwen and Zabel - that impressed Museeuw, and the Catalunya victories simply reinforced his initial view that here was a rider with genuine talent.

Johan Museeuw
Museeuw where he most liked to be - up front in the Paris-Roubaix
"Everybody is talking about Cavendish now. His wins demand respect," said Museeuw, who won the world cycling championship in 1996 and 11 World Cup races during his career.

"When I was racing British cycling was not so strong. You had guys from the track like (Chris) Boardman who were good but not many who could compete in the big races.

"But now British cycling is much stronger and Cavendish is at the front of that. He could be Britain's (Tom) Boonen."

The Boonen reference might be lost on the average British sports fan but the 26-year-old sprinter, a protege of Museeuw's, is perhaps the biggest sports star in Belgium - an honour Museeuw himself once held.

Museeuw, who has just completed a two-year ban from cycling after admitting to doping towards the end of his career, was in London to promote his new range of hi-tech bikes and help launch an exhibition of Belgian cycling photography called "Flandrien: Hard Men and Heroes" at the city's HOST gallery.



SEE ALSO
British pair close on Tour spot
22 Jun 07 |  Cycling
Cavendish outlines Tour ambition
15 May 07 |  Cycling
Cavendish sprints to points win
14 May 07 |  Cycling
Cavendish secures T-Mobile deal
03 Sep 06 |  Cycling


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