Cavendish hits Tour de France from new angle

'It could be the best thing I've ever done, it could be the worst'

Where Mark Cavendish's form lies ahead of this year's Tour de France is somewhat of an unknown. With a year devoted between disciplines as he juggles his ambitions for the Tour de France and the Olympic Games, he comes into July's main event somewhat in limbo.

This season has had it's high points, a world Madison title has been sandwiched between a stage and the overall in Qatar and a final-day triumph at the Tour of California. But with his track commitments being as they are the British rider has not been in a position to race on the road at 100 per cent.

"It's been completely different," he said of his Tour build-up at the Dimension Data pre-race press conference.

"I've had a track build up and used racing to build my endurance. I really don't know how it's going to be. It could be the best thing I've ever done, it could be the worst. I've definitely made every second of every day count. I'm not coming to the Tour to just dick about. I'm here to represent team Dimension Data."

Representing Dimension Data, for a sprinter of Cavendish's high calibre at least, means one thing and one thing only: winning. Cavendish sees a number of stages as potential battlegrounds but given the form of Marcel Kittel this year and the luxurious riches the German has within his lead-out train, Cavendish very much starts as an underdog when it comes to winning the first stage and pulling on the yellow jersey.

"It was never a career target," he said when asked about the chance of wearing yellow.

"It's just something that I've never done. You'll make out it was a career target but it's just something that I've never done. The target is to win the stage."

Questions regarding the Olympics were banned at the start of the press conference but the Tour is so intrinsically tied into Cavendish's Olympic plans that there was always going to be some cross over in subject matter.

The matter of when or where Cavendish would retire from the race was brought up, and fairly so. In the past, British Cycling have stressed that their recommendation would see the sprinter leave the race before Paris in order for him to save his energy for Rio. While Dimension Data have continually voiced their support of Cavendish's dreams of winning an Olympic gold medal, they would also like to see their prized asset at the Tour. Finding a happy medium may have already been reached.

"I've not planned to come to the Tour de France to stop. It's my tenth start and every time I've stopped it's been through different circumstances. I've a job to do and we'll see. I was in bed for a week after the Tour last year and was sick. I know I can't afford to do that this year but the Champs Elysees is the biggest stage in the world for a sprinter. I know that my teammates will try their best to get to Paris so I'll try my best to get to Paris."

Rolf Aldag, who has worked with Cavendish on and off since the British rider turned professional, echoed that sentiment.

"If we didn't think that he had a chance then we probably wouldn't bring him but we definitely think he will be in the mix. I think everyone can beat everyone."

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