Plays down differences with teammate Greipel
Mark Cavendish is convinced he can still win the green points jersey at this year's Tour de France, despite his difficult start to the season caused by a dental problem, and has dismissed his recent comments about teammate Andre Greipel as just "creating controversy".
Speaking to the Guardian newspaper in London after a rare trip to the Isle of Man for some time off, Cavendish is on form and up for a fight with the journalist Anna Kessel who has never interviewed him before and does not regularly follow cycling.
"You came here today with the perception that I was an arsehole," was Cavendish's opening line.
The journalist went on to describe him as a unique talent but also as 'mischievous and boyish, a young buck who enjoys running off his mouth', before giving him room to blow off steam about losing the green jersey in last year's Tour de France and how he intends to win it this year.
"The decision last year, that's got to be one of the worst sports decisions in history – it's up there with Maradona's hand ball at the  World Cup. Don't you think? One of the worst decisions in sports history. Really. That was …" he said on the decision by race officials on stage 14 to Besancon that cost him some precious points in the battle for the green jersey.
"I've had everybody telling me I was shit since I was a kid so I've always had to stick up for myself," he said to justify his words.
"Because I was winning so comfortably…and the way I was celebrating; I was doing wacky salutes and that crossing the finish line. Maybe he just thought … I don't know. You know what I mean? One of them."
Defeat last year has only strengthened Cavendish's conviction that he can win the green jersey this year. He saw it as a logical outcome to three weeks of sprinting.
"I know if I do the work then I'll win it," he said. "I'm not being arrogant, I'm sat here with pretty slumped shoulders, stating the fact that I know I'll do what's right to win it. I know physically no one can match me. We've got the best guys on the team to support me to do it. It's illogical to say I shouldn't be the favourite for it."
Cavendish said his near obsession with perfection will help avoid anything going wrong along the road this year.
"No, I won't let it," he argued. "Lance Armstrong won seven Tours, that's 147 days of racing, and he never had a puncture or a mechanical. You can really minimise your chances of a mistake if you do everything right."
"One guy said I had OCD [obsessive compulsive disorder], but I'm just meticulous. It's like when I'm cooking I cut everything up, prepare it all in bowls – you know like how they do in TV? Well that's minimising the risk of failure, I'm not going to burn something because I'm cutting something up. That's what I'm like when I'm competing."
Cavendish insisted he speaks out in retaliation and plays down his on going spat with teammate Andre Greipel.
"I don't ever start shit, I just retaliate a lot, and that's just sticking up for myself," he said.
"Loads of stuff I said about André is with a little smirk. It's like knowing it's creating controversy, if you know what I mean?"
Cavendish also retaliated when asked about reported comments from fellow Briton Bradley Wiggins that Cavendish would not be suited to Team Sky because he needs a team that is built around him.
Cavendish reportedly banged his hand on the table, making the journalists' Dictaphone jump before replying to Wiggins.
"It's not built around me," he said. "Cycling is a commercial sport where the job – what's he on about? That's like saying ... It's not a pub-crawl, cycling's a job where fundamentally we have sponsors who pay for the team. Our job is to display those sponsors as prominently as possible, we're moving billboards, and what better way to display those sponsors than to cross the finish line with your hands in the air? That's why Bradley's not winning.
"Did he actually say that? Or not? It's not eight people helping me win … I'm riding for the team. Bradley doesn't see that."
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