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Mark Cavendish has his eye on the prize: the green jersey in Paris.
HTC-Highroad sprinter takes 19th career Tour de France stage win
Despite picking up his fourth stage of this year's Tour de France, Mark Cavendish has played down talk of the green jersey competition being in the bag. The HTC sprinter took his tally to 19 stage wins in the Tour in Montpellier, and now holds a 37 point lead over Jose Rojas and 71 points over Philippe Gilbert. Although there are intermediate points in each remaining stage, Cavendish has the Champs Elysees to look forward to - a stage in which he has triumphed for the last two years.
"I don't think the green jersey competition is over. Everyone thought that last year it would be a fight between Hushovd and Petacchi but then I came back. I still think it's going to be difficult because Gilbert and Rojas are still collecting points. It's certainly not in the bag," Cavendish said.
While Cavendish refused to get carried away about the possibility of being the first rider from Great Britain to win green, he waxed lyrical over the work his HTC teammates put in as they delivered him perfectly to the line. If Cavendish needed any extra advantage over both Rojas and Gilbert it's his lead out, and today in Montpellier they were as good as they've ever been.
The American squad chased down the day's break as efficiently as ever, but their mettle was tested in the closing kilometers as Sky and Garmin battled for supremacy.
"I cross the finish line first as I have done 19 times, but there's only one person who can do that. Today two of my teammates rode for 190 of those kilometers and the rest delivered me to the line. I have an incredible bunch of guys. The commitment of those guys is amazing. I'm incredibly lucky.
"I hate losing when guys have ridden out of their skin for me, and the guys do that."
HTC's focus has shifted slightly since the race left the Pyrenees. Tony Martin has slipped out of contention in GC, while Peter Velits is digging in but suffering the effects of a crash on the stage to Luz-Ardiden. It means that Cavendish's hunt for the green jersey is now their only chance of standing on the podium in Paris, and while the team would have worked for him regardless, they'll put even more focus into the pursuit of green.
"Nothing's guaranteed. Two years ago I though I had the green jersey but then Thor went on the attack in the mountains. Last year I was out of it and then I ended up losing by 10 points.
"Gilbert is an incredibly talented rider and Rojas is a much better climber than me. There are maybe some sprints that he can get in the mountains which I can't."