British superstar Mark Cavendish has told fans to expect a wide open Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race this weekend, the outcome of which will remain unpredictable until the final few kilometres.
Cavendish has spent the past week in Geelong preparing for the race that will serve as his debut for new Team Dimension Data and the winner of 26 Tour de France stages says the thorough preparation has been worthwhile.
The Olympian and former world champion portrayed measured confidence about his chances during a media conference on Tuesday, looking over the Geelong waterfront stretch he thinks will be the scene of a down-to-the-wire finish.
Cavendish was at pains to point out that the circuit – which encompasses Barwon Heads and Torquay – as well as the high-calibre field, will make this race a thriller.
"The organisers have really done a well-thought out race to kind of keep it close to the final stages," the 30-year-old said.
"It could be a break away, it could be a sprint … you won't know until the final couple of kilometres, which is quite exciting.
"That's the beauty of this race … the majority of riders who line up on the start line on Sunday will be in with a shot of winning.
"I really believe this is quite open to a fair number of riders."
More than anything, Cavendish said he was looking forward to getting down to business with his new teammates.
"Team Dimension Data, we've got a strong group of guys here," he said.
"I think I am the only one who hasn't rode a race in the last week, so I think the guys are in superb form."
His decision to start 2016 with this race has been a talking point, but Cavendish said he liked coming back to a country he has visited many times before.
"Coming down here, I know these roads from training and I was here for the world championships [in Geelong] in 2010," he said.
"The Great Ocean Road is one of the most beautiful roads to ride your bike on in the world.
"It could have been better weather, it's been raining on me a bit, but the Australian roads, the coffee, and just the Australian way of life - it's quite nice to have a couple of weeks here to begin the year."
Cavendish said he hoped spending two weeks in Geelong before the race, completing "five- and six-hour rides", would give him an advantage.
"It has actually done me good to be here, to be able to ride long distances on decent roads because I haven't had too much endurance," he said.
"It's been a lot of quality. I think my form is there."
Inevitably, Cavendish was asked on Tuesday about the comparisons being made between himself and rising Australian star Caleb Ewan.
Many have drawn a likeness between the world's most decorated sprinter and Orica GreenEDGE's Ewan because of the 21-year-old's size – he stands just 165 centimetres tall and weighs 61 kilograms - as well as his recent success.
Cavendish said he believed Ewan was the future of sprinting, but believed comparisons between riders were always tricky.
"People used to say when I was young that I was the next Robbie McEwen," he said.
"But I didn't think I looked anything like Robbie on a bike.
"I've heard people say Caleb is like me, but I'm sure he would say, 'I'm not the next Mark Cavendish, I'm the next Caleb Ewan'."