After a day off at the Tour de France for the sprinters on stage 6 – if two ascents of the Mûr-de-Bretagne can be called a day off – it's back to business on stage 7 from Fougères to Chartres on Friday, when Mark Cavendish will be looking to score his first win at this year's race.
Cavendish is chasing five-time Tour winner Eddy Merckx's record of 34 Tour stage wins, and the Dimension Data sprinter's running tally currently stands at 30. He has been out of contention in the four sprint finishes at this year's race so far, which have been dominated by just two riders: Quick-Step Floors' Fernando Gaviria – who won stage 1 and stage 4 – and world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), winner of both stage 2 and stage 5.
Cavendish's best finish so far has been 21st on stage 4, but he told Cyclingnews that he's feeling "all right" and ready to go again on the 231km seventh stage between Fougères and Chartres, which is also the longest stage of this year's Tour.
"The stages haven't been too tough," Cavendish said, "but then we haven't hit the mountains yet. But it's the Tour de France – it's stressful."
On the stages when he's not been able to be in the mix, the 33-year-old said that it's been a case of dropping off the pace and keeping his powder dry for days when he can be competitive.
"It's smarter to be conservative and clever with your energy than to have an ego and try to stay in the group," he said.
"Now there are a couple more sprint stages on the cards," said Cavendish, referring to Friday's stage and Saturday's stage 8 from Dreux to Amiens, on Bastille Day, which should again see a bunch sprint – the day before things really do turn tough with stage 9's cobbled sectors on the road from Arras to Roubaix on Sunday.
Is he feeling better than he had been in the early stages of the race?
"I hope so," Cavendish said. "I don't particularly feel bad physically, so we'll see what happens."