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Erik Zabel speaks with Mark Cavendish (HTC - Columbia) after stage one.
HTC-Columbia rallies around its sprinter
After five stages of the Tour de France Mark Cavendish's search for a win continues after the HTC-Columbia rider fired another blank in Reims. The Briton finished in 12th place as Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) took his second stage of the race.
"That wasn't the plan, that's for sure," said Cavendish's lead-out man Mark Renshaw.
Cavendish's dream of claiming the green jersey now looks all but over with Thor Hushovd  ten points clear of Petacchi  while the Manxman has accumulated just 15 points thus far.
At the finish Cavendish refused to talk to the press, walking straight onto the team bus, his only communication coming when his helmet was sent flying out from the bus door.
HTC-Columbia has had a mixed Tour to date. Renshaw and Tony Martin have both secured second places, while Adam Hansen crashed out with a broken collarbone and Michael Rogers lost valuable time in yesterday's cobbled stage.
"We're missing a couple of guys there in the finish," said Renshaw. "It's not like last year when we had Rogers, who is riding for GC, and Adam Hansen has already crashed. We're missing a bit of horsepower but I'm sure we'll get one."
One rider that Renshaw didn't mention was George Hincapie. The American was a valued part of the HTC-Columbia train last year and although he was in the mix today, it was for his new BMC Racing Team.
"They're all classy riders at the Tour. We have to rely on other teams now, though," Renshaw said. "We've got to work together with other teams like Lampre and we'll try again tomorrow."
Asked if Cavendish had the form to turn his Tour around Renshaw said, "I think so. I only lost to Petacchi by a bit on stage 1 and Mark is a lot faster than I am. So I've no doubt that he's faster than Petacchi."
Renshaw also rooms with Cavendish at races and was quick to downplay any tension within the team. "Of course there's pressure. To win six stages last year and be into the fifth one this year and not have one...we've finished second twice, but a win is what matters."
Erik Zabel, the team's sprinting coach and winner of six green jerseys, talked to the press at the finish. "Last year it looked like he won races easily, but since the spring he had a hard time and now it's on me, the sports directeurs and Bob [Stapleton] to tell him the truth.
"Last year we were happy when he won but we win together and lose together. Of course Mark is the man, but we have to support him, especially now. I still believe in him. He can't lose his talent.
"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see what the team has lost, especially in George Hincapie, one of the most experienced guys who is strong and fast."