Mark Cavendish loves a challenge and the Manxman faces one of the biggest of his career in Paris as he tries to win the final stage of the Tour de France on the Champs Elysees and convince Etixx-QuickStep team manager Patrick Lefevere to give him a contract extension and invest in a dedicated lead out train fro 2016.
Lefevere is expected to sit down with Cavendish’s agent in Paris and finally talk numbers, goals and details of a deal. A fifth victory on the Champs Elysees would help Cavendish secure a contract close to his reported 2.2 million Euro current salary. If Cavendish fails to beat three-time Tour stage winner Andre Greipel, Peter Sagan, Alexander Kristoff and John Degenkolb, it could hurt his chance of staying at Etixx-QuickStep and spark a move to MTN-Qhubeka or Trek Factory Racing, who have been linked to the British rider.
Cavendish won the Champs Elysees every year between 2009 and 2012 but Marcel Kittel dominated the sprints in the 2013 Tour de France and Cavendish crashed out on stage one in Harrogate in 2014. Cavendish had to wait almost two years to win his 26th stage at the Tour de France, but showed he is still fast, hungry and competitive by winning the sprint in Fougeres ahead of Greipel, Sagan and Degenkolb.
Like all the sprinters in this year’s race, Cavendish has dug deep to finish the tough mountain stages of the Tour de France but ensured he was in the gruppetto on each stage. He has rarely spoken to the media during his fight for survival but will fly to Paris with the rest of the peloton before the stage and hopes to end his Tour on a high as the sun sets over Paris and on the 2015 Tour de France.
He has since lost key lead out man Mark Renshaw but knows the secrets of the high-speed sprint on the Champs Elysees. Positioning is key, especially going into the final slight right turn onto the Champs Elysees.
“They changed the corner slightly since my early wins and now it’s wider and hardly a corner at all,” Cavendish told Equipe during a long interview with the French sports newspaper.
“The finale is virtually straight now. With so many trains leading out the sprint these days, it’s pretty dangerous. There are four or five teams who want to be at the front.”
Cavendish knows that he will be the centre of attention if he wins or loses sprints, especially on the Champs Elysees.
“In 2008, when I won races, it sparked big headlines. Now if I don’t win there are big headlines about me,” he said. “I take it as a compliment but I feel sorry for Greipel. He’s a good guy and good sprinter. When he wins a stage, that should be a big story, not about me losing.”
Cavendish recalls his win on the Champs Elysees in 2009 as his best sprint. He used his power and speed to win it by several bike lengths, with Renshaw finishing second.
”That was special because we were so far ahead!” he said.
“George Hincapie had a fractured collarbone but he blew the Garmin team apart in the lead out in Place de la Concorde. I’d had a great Tour and won six stages. It was a perfect finish.”
“You always get same emotions on the Champs Elysees: you turn right and go as fast as you can.”