Mark Cavendish remains the top sprinter in world cycling despite the emergence of the likes of Alexander Kristoff, Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel, according to Elia Viviani.
Cavendish won 11 stages on the road last season, but only one of them came in a Grand Tour, his success on leg seven of the Tour de France taking him to 26 wins in the history of the race – the third highest behind Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault.
The rise of a new generation of sprinters has some to question Cavendish's ability to remain at the top level, but Viviani has no doubt the Manxman is still the one to beat.
"I don't think Cav is on his way down," he told Omnisport. "It is the competition's level that has risen.
"I see a lot of budding sprinters hitting the big time. Kristoff, me, Kittel – we are all getting to a very high level.
"Also, sprints are different now than they were a few years ago. They are less linear, more confused and open to many contestants.
"These are the reasons why he looks worse than before, but he is not. Palmares-wise he is still the best sprinter in the world."
The pair will do battle this week at the UCI Track Cycling World Championship and Viviani is relishing the chance to race against the two-time world champion in London.
He added: "With Cav in the omnium it means there is another rider to keep an eye on. He only took part in one World Cup race this year and ranked fourth. He is at high level, no doubt.
"But it makes me happy to see another important road sprinter like me.
"It is always hard for us to face track specialists. The worlds and Olympics will be great if they feature road cyclists. A race where road sprinters are involved enriches us and the race itself."