Cavendish cleared for Team Sky debut
Mark Cavendish has been cleared to make his debut for Team Sky on the opening stage of the Tour of Qatar.
The world road race champion's participation in the race had been threatened by a bout of illness that forced him out of training on the eve of the six-day race.
Instead, he spent the day resting under the supervision of Team Sky’s medical team and his progress has since proved encouraging.
“We’re all delighted that Mark has been able to battle back from the bug he picked up coming out here and it will be a real boost to the rest of the guys to know that he’ll be starting today," Team Sky’s sports director Steven de Jongh said.
“Our medical team have done a fantastic job in looking after him and Mark has followed their advice to the letter.
"Clearly, he’s not going to be at his best in the next few days but we’re hoping he’ll get stronger with every passing stage.
“We’ll continue to keep a very close eye on him but hopefully he’s over the worst of it now.”
Racing on flat and exposed desert roads has traditionally favoured the sprinters with Tom Boonen winning on three occasions and Cavendish's former HTC-Highroad lead-out man Mark Renshaw taking the GC last year.
Germany's Andre Greipel, who won three stages and the pre-race criterium at the Tour Down Under two weeks ago, has withdrawn due to a stomach virus but Cavendish still faces stiff competition.
Renshaw, now at Rabobank, Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), Thor Hushovd (BMC), Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda), Robbie McEwen (GreenEdge), Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha), Peter Sagan (Liquigas) and Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) are all on the start list.
Gilbert said: "I like this race because it's put on by Eddy Merckx, meaning it's well organised.
"It's also good preparation for the wind and to get a good feeling of racing with my new team-mates."