Mark Cavendish sounded like a stuck record as he made his way through the mixed zone at the end of stage six of the Tour de France, telling different journalists different versions of the same thing: "I’m not going to fight for the green jersey – I only want to reach Paris."
The Columbia-HTC sprinter placed seventeenth on the stage, which was just good enough to hold on to the green jersey – by one point from the day’s winner, Thor Hushovd (Cervélo Test Team).
It wasn’t a stage that Cavendish and his team had earmarked, with the uphill finish far better suited to Hushovd and Oscar Freire (Rabobank), who placed second. And so there wasn’t the familiar sight at the head of the peloton of the Columbia train, setting it up for the race’s fastest finisher – so long as the road is flat.
"I knew I wasn’t going to match Thor and Oscar in this type of finish," said Cavendish. "That’s why we didn’t ride today. The other sprint days should suit me better. We’ll see.
"I’m still not going to sacrifice my chances of reaching Paris for the green jersey," he continued. "I want to reach Paris and win on the Champs Élysées, that’s my target. If green comes, it comes. But I’m not going to go for intermediate sprints."
With the mountain stages ahead, Cavendish was asked how he would approach days when his priority isn’t to win but just to survive. "The same [way] as the other guys," he said, "it’s just that we’re all going at different speeds."
Now riding his third Tour, he said this one represents his best chance of finishing: "My chances of reaching Paris are better than they’ve ever been before. I still feel good after six stages."
Cavendish’s Australian teammate, Michael Rogers, fell hard during the stage. He finished and was taken to hospital for X-rays, though Cavendish seemed resigned to losing him. "We’ve lost Michael Rogers," he said, "which is a blow to our lead out train, and a blow not just from a sporting point of view, but for our morale, too. He’s a great guy and has just come back to the Tour from his horrific crash two years ago. To be cursed by such back luck is not nice. I just hope he’s okay."