Mark Cavendish plays down impact of bout of glandular fever
Mark Cavendish has played down the impact of his glandular fever and is optimistic of returning to racing soon.
The 30-time Tour de France stage winner has not raced since the Milan-San Remo one-day race on March 18 and still has no timescale for his return.
Initially his absence was attributed to pain in his right ankle, due to overuse, but Team Dimension Data last week announced Cavendish had also been suffering "unexplained fatigue". Blood tests showed this to be glandular fever caused by the Epstein Barr virus.
Speaking in his role as Help for Heroes patron while launching the charity's Race Across America team on Friday, Cavendish told Press Association Sport: "I'm absolutely fine. As anything with me it's been blown out of proportion.
"The majority of the population have Epstein Barr in their system. It's just about how well you manage it and that's how quickly you come back.
Mark Cavendish (GBR) of BritainReuters
"I've got a good group of people around me managing that and I'm looking forward to getting back racing as soon as possible. I was only diagnosed two weeks ago today. I already feel a lot better than I did a few days ago."
The Tour is once again Cavendish's primary objective for the year.
The three-week race begins in Dusseldorf on July 1 and concludes in Paris on July 23, with Cavendish bidding to move closer to Eddy Merckx's record of 34 stage wins.
Cavendish won the opening stage last year at Utah Beach to claim the first Tour yellow jersey of his career.
Mark Cavendish (GBR) of Britain with his wife Peta Todd and his son Frey.Eurosport
Cycling has a long history with the military and Cavendish and his wife Peta have been patrons of Help for Heroes for a number of years.
An eight-strong team of former military personnel supported by Help for Heroes will ride coast-to-coast, from California to Maryland.
The 3,081-mile (4958 kilometres) race, which begins on June 17, is one and a half times the length of the Tour.
"I don't think I could ever do Race Across America. It's the ultimate endurance event," Cavendish said.
"I have so much respect for anybody who does it.
"The Tour de France is across 21 days, in stages, but they do it non-stop. There are some people that do it solo, but these guys do it as a team.
"They're servicemen and women. They're used to working in that environment, working as a group and taking shifts. That's where it's going to play in their favour a lot. They're going to be great."
The team is aiming to raise £100,000 for Help for Heroes.
Joe Townsend competed in triathlon at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, while Jaco van Gass is a former member of the British Cycling para-cycling team and others have competed in the Invictus Games.
Cavendish's friend Josh Boggi is also in the team. Boggi was an army corporal when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2010 and lost both his legs and his right arm below the elbow. He will compete on a hand bike.
"He's known as 'the hardest man in the world'," Cavendish said.
"Josh is a triple amputee. He got blown up in Afghanistan. He's one of my best friends and incredible to have around."
Cavendish sees comparisons between the team ethic in cycling and the military, but individual talents are necessary too.
The 31-year-old from the Isle of Man added: "If I wasn't a bike rider, I'd have signed up for the military. I've always said that to Peta.
"I think I'd be terrible - they might not have me."