Although Sky claimed the top two steps of the Tour de France podium through Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish believes the team could have done more to help him in his bid to defend the green jersey.
Cavendish won three stages at the Tour, but he told The Telegraph that he could have won at least two more had his Sky team been prepared to take greater responsibility for chasing down breakaways.
The Manxman has recently confirmed that he will join Omega Pharma-QuickStep in 2013, leaving Sky just one season into a three-year contract.
“The Sky company slogan says ‘Believe in better’ but in the end we didn’t really buy into that,” Cavendish told The Telegraph. “We could have been better this year. It wasn’t a failure, and I was very proud to be part of a British yellow-jersey winning team with Brad, but it wasn’t the ultimate either. We didn’t achieve what I thought we were setting out to achieve at the start of the season.”
Cavendish claimed that he could have won as many as eight stages in the 2012 Tour had he been riding for a team devoted solely to him, but said that he agreed to target five stages with Sky so as not to compromise Wiggins’ overall challenge.
“My calculation was that it was worth losing those three to win the yellow with Brad and take green,” he said. “I wanted to be part of a team that made history, I would have signed for another team if it was all about me winning the green jersey.”
When the Tour de France team was selected in late June, however, Cavendish found himself with just one dedicated support rider, Bernhard Eisel, while the rest of the squad was devoted to helping Wiggins in the mountains.
“It was then, on the eve of the Tour, that I realised the promise I had signed to Sky on wasn’t really a promise. I was a back-up rider. At the end of the day we weren’t going for the two jerseys at all,” he said.
As well as missing out on the green jersey, Cavendish said that Sky had been too cautious in their management of Chris Froome, who was twice asked to wait for Wiggins in the high mountains at the Tour.
“Chris Froome could have won two more stages, I should have won another two and Sky should have taken both jerseys. We could have done that without any risk or detriment to the yellow jersey,” Cavendish said. “It’s frustrating. My mentality is that I am not happy unless we have got absolute perfection and have won everything we could have won.”
The week after the Tour, Cavendish lined up as the leader of the British team in the London Olympics road race, but the five-man squad was unable to control the race and keep things together for a bunch finish. Cavendish admitted that he had been stung by the critical reaction of the mainstream British press.
“The headlines said I failed but I am going to keep those headlines and in 10 years – when the country understands cycling, which it will do – I will get them out and show what a joke they were,” he said.