Omega Pharma - Quick-Step focused on stage wins for British Champ
Three stages are available to the sprinters of the Tour de France this week and new British Road Champion Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) has not given up hope of catching the leader of the Points Classification, Peter Sagan (Cannondale) despite the Slovak's 106-point advantage.
Cavendish is currently third in the battle for the maillot vert, with André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) second, 93-points back on Sagan. The former world champion won stage 5 before a disappointing sixth stage where he crashed in the finale only to be out-gunned by the lead-outs of Lotto Belisol which delivered a win for Greipel, and Argos-Shimano. While understandably frustrated at the time, Cavendish has gained perspective on the incident.
"There are no regrets about what happened in Montpellier," he told AFP. "These are just things that can happen and I lost to one of the best guys in the world."
While it's so far been Sagan's consistency in the stage finishes which has helped to stretch his lead over his rivals, Cavendish is not ready concede defeat when it comes to the possibility of securing the Tour de France Points Classification for the second time, having won in 2011.
"There's always a possibility I can catch him and I'll just keep going," he said with at least three opportunities for sprinters in the lead in to next weekend, including Tuesday's 197km stage between St-Gildas-des-Bois and Saint Malo.
"There's no way we'll change anything. Our only focus is on trying to win stages and see what happens from there, but Sagan is a great bike rider."
While the Tour de France's first week usually comes with its fair share of stress in the opening week, the tight and twisting roads of Corsica, the buffeting winds on the stage to Marseille plus the GC onslaught that punished the rest of the peloton due to the incessant pace, plus high temperatures meant that the first nine stages had been particularly brutal, Cavendish explained.
"The first week was harder than usual and I'm tired now," he admitted. "It has been hot few days and wasn't the best journey up here from the Pyrenees.
"The race route has been difficult and there has been no real control over the race for the first nine days which is pretty unusual for the Tour de France.
"But overall we are happy, we've got a stage win and narrowly missed out in the time trial, and now hopefully it will be a more relaxed second week," Cavendish continued.
"I think this week will be similar to what the first week of the Tour is usually like, with a bit less stress because the GC has kind of taken its shape so we will just see what happens."
1st World Road Championships 2011
1st World Track Championships, Madison 2005, 2008
1st Points competition, Tour de France 2011
20 stage wins, Tour de France 2008-11
9 stage wins, Giro d’Italia, 2008-11
1st Points competition, Vuelta a España 2010
4 stages wins, Vuelta a España 2010
1st Milan-San Remo 2009
1st Scheleprijs 2007, 2008, 2011
2nd Points competition, Tour de France 2009, 2010
Looking ahead to 2012
It will be hard for Mark Cavendish to top his 2011 season, winning the green jersey in the Tour de France and the rainbow stripes of World Champion – but Cavendish has big dreams, and they’re centred around July, riding the Tour de France and then the Olympic road race in London. Not that the rest of the peloton will be making it easy for him – and it will be interesting to see whether the move from HTC to Sky will affect his racing. Whatever happens, there are sure to be the usual fireworks!