Cees Bol sees glimmers of Tour de France sprint victory in first race with Mark Cavendish

‘I think we made some good steps.’ Bol highlights need for more race time with Cavendish after pairing makes debut at UAE Tour.

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Cees Bol saw some positive first strokes in his journey toward a potential Tour de France sprint victory with Mark Cavendish.

Bol and Cavendish buddied up for the first time at the UAE Tour last week in a debut of Astana-Qazaqstan’s new sprinter A-Team and a glimpse at what a record-topping 35th Tour victory might look like.

The broad boulevards and brimming sprint field of the Emirates saw them thrown right into the deep end when they were still learning to paddle.

“It’s always a bit hard in the beginning, especially in this race when it’s super difficult to get a good leadout and we still need to get used to each other,” Bol told VeloNews and Cyclingnews. “So that was a challenge this week, but I think we made some good steps.”

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Bol and Cavendish joined Astana this winter to herald a new direction for Alexandr Vinokurov’s crew.

After years chasing GC placings around climber captains, Astana-Qazaqstan will this summer support Cavendish’s bid to top the Tour de France record books.

Bol, who sprinted for himself during his two seasons at DSM, said more racing time and a developed relationship with his new wingman would help unlock winning potential.

“You can train the physical effort you’ll make [for a leadout], but the chaos in the peloton, the timing and reading the race is something you can only learn in a race,” he said.

Astana’s new tandem saw some early success in the reduced kick of UAE Tour stage 1. Cavendish sprinted for third out of a 13-group split and later hailed Bol’s support.

The other three fast finishes last week saw the Astana blue far out of the winner’s frame.

“I think we need a bit of coaching the guys in front of us to get us where we need to be in the last K. I think that’s a big thing,” Bol suggested as room for improvement. “But just getting used to each other, like me knowing what he wants in a certain moment.

“Obviously, you can’t really talk it through at that moment. So you have to learn it.”

A student of the art of sprinting

Cavendish and the 194cm Bol paired up for the first time at the UAE Tour last week.

Bol is something of a student of the sprint.

Time studying bunch kicks and his own background in leadout work gives the Dutchman something of a head-start in developing an understanding of what works for his new teammate.

“Leadouts are something I’ve always done, all the years I’ve been pro. I’ve always been doing leadouts and sprinting myself, so I’m quite used to it,” he said. “It’s nice to have a change, not always doing the same role.”

But leading out Cavendish is not like leading out any other sprinter.

As 10 years the Manxman’s junior, Bol was rising through the pro ranks while Cavendish was racing through his apex.

“I like cycling, so I like to watch bike races,” he said. “There’s this iconic video of Cavendish sprinting on the Champs-Élysées, with Renshaw leading him out. That’s one of the things I’ve seen in videos all the time.”

Astana-Qazaqstan is still yet to pin down its optimal leadout collective.

Bol is slated for a key position as Cavendish’s pilot, while Martin Laas, Davide Martinelli, and Yevgeniy Fedorov are in the running for approach roles.

The next time Cavendish and Bol will team up to test their budding relationship is unknown. Cavendish is set to sprint through Italy and Turkey while the Dutchman still waits on details of his program.

But if things go right for them this spring, there might be a video of Bol leading Cavendish to victory on the Champs in five months’ time.

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