Race winner Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) talks about how the race will be different next year with the extra miles and climbs of Box Hill at the post race press conference
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World Champion rejects talk of early Tour exit for Olympic preparation
Mark Cavendish has vowed that he will finish this year's Tour de France, contrary to speculation that he might abandon the race to focus on the Olympics.
Speaking to journalists at an event hosted by Team Sky partner Jaguar in London, Cavendish ruled out withdrawing from the Tour before the race finish on July 22, just six days before the Olympic road race.
"I still want to win both [the Tour green jersey and the Olympic road race]. I'll finish the Tour de France. Unless I get eliminated, I'll finish it. I'm not pulling out of the Tour de France for the Olympic Games. No. But I want to do well in both," he affirmed.
Earlier in the day, Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford had sounded upbeat about the challenge of reconciling Cavendish's and Bradley Wiggins' goals at the Tour. Just over a month ago, Brailsford talked about how both men would have to "prioritize" their Tour and Olympic ambitions. "I think just to say that you're going to give each one equal significance and try to win everything is probably the recipe for failure," Brailsford said in March. Some took this as a hint that Team Sky were already planning to withdraw Cavendish from the Tour before the race reaches Paris. Today's comments may dispel that idea.
"The six days between the two are hard," Cavendish did concede. "You've got to take every single hour and make it count. But it's not like I'm coming in for a different sport at the Olympics. Probably all of the favourites for the Olympics will be riding the Tour anyway, so it's not like I'm in a different position. [It takes a lot of energy to win the green jersey], but that's why I need a good team in the Tour and a good team in the Olympics. It's not me winning the green jersey at the Tour and winning the Olympics. It's Team Sky at the Tour and Britain winning at the Olympics. "
On the equally thorny issue of sharing legroom with Wiggins at the Tour, Cavendish was bullish. "Julius Caesar used to flank his armies on both sides," he grinned.
But for all his many strengths, Brailsford is not Caesar, and Team Sky are not the Roman imperial army. Tour history is littered with cautionary tales of teams which have tried and failed to wage war on two fronts. This, though, doesn't seem likely to shake Cavendish's faith in his fellow troops.
"Believe me, I was doing the bunch sprints, and someone from BMC was always next to me last year," he said. "They were working for Cadel Evans for yellow, but they were there next to our train every day. So if they were doing that and not even getting wins, that's all the more reason why we should do it and possibly get wins, too.
"BMC did as much work on the front as HTC last year," he went on. "We haven't got two guys to ride on the front all day with no help, but there'll be more teams this year with a reason to ride. There are more guys this year with wins and confidence behind them. Marcel Kittel's getting good, and his team will be going with the sole goal of winning sprints, so they'll ride for that. And obviously Lotto have confidence in Greipel. So, yeah, there'll be more teams riding."
A lot, of course, depends on Cavendish himself, and he claims to be pleased with his season so far. The Manxman has won four races in 2012, including the Belgian semi-Classic Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. "I think I've had the most successful start to a season for a world champion since Tom Boonen in 2006," he argued.
The rainbow jersey, however, brings burdens as well as privileges, and Cavendish admitted that, "This season has been the first time in my career when I've consistently been marked, when I've consistently felt that it's not been about someone else winning – it's about me not being there." Not that this explained his failure at Milan-San Remo in March. "I'll never be able to explain it," he said of that hiccup. "I thought, no, I was in the best form of my life. It's easy for an uneducated person to say, 'Ah, Cav can't climb.' I'm not the first guy to get dropped usually; there are other guys who get dropped before me, but the TV camera is usually on me. But I was the last guy over Le Manie in San Remo. That means there's a problem. It's inexplicable."
Cavendish's next headache will be leaving his two-week-old baby Delilah Grace to race alongside Wiggins at the Tour of Romandy next week. Asked whether his daughter was already disturbing his sleep patterns, Cavendish laughed. "The baby wakes up maybe once a night. Bear in mind that Bernie Eisel is my usual room-mate. If you can sleep through his snoring, you can sleep through anything. He cries just as much as the baby, too. No, more. He cries more than the baby, he eats more, and he sh*ts more."
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