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Cavendish identifies Tour de France target sprints

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Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia)

Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Mark Cavendish (HTC - Columbia) is building form for a run at the green jersey in the Tour de France.

Mark Cavendish (HTC - Columbia) is building form for a run at the green jersey in the Tour de France. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich/

Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) said on Thursday that he has identified "six probable" and "nine possible" bunch sprints in this year's Tour de France, where, he repeated, his main goal is to win the green jersey.

Cavendish was speaking in London just over a week after suffering a horrific crash at the Tour de Suisse, where he tangled with Heinrich Haussler and fell heavily 50 metres from the line. Unsurprisingly, he was eager to set the record straight on that incident, and on the reported "protest" that followed it.

In response to the suggestion that such a crash wouldn't have happened last season, when Cavendish's superiority was such that he tended to win by several lengths rather than going shoulder-to-shoulder with opponents, the 25-year-old said, "When you're watching at home, you don't see the headwind and the uphill finish.

"I wouldn't have been several lengths ahead last year. It was a hard run in to the finish: the last 5km, we were going up and down, up and down. [Thor] Hushovd wasn't there, [Robbie] McEwen wasn't there.

"OK, [on the finish straight] I altered my line but I didn't switch," Cavendish said. "I'm not going to say I was sprinting in a straight line or that I was faultless, but I don't believe I was the only one at fault. But you know, that happens in sprinting. I got up, crossed the line and went straight back to my bus. I'm just glad I wasn't injured, and I'm sorry for the people who were."

It was reported, the following day, that the peloton staged a protest on the start line, but Cavendish insisted that was inaccurate. "It wasn't the whole peloton. That was taken out of context. It was [Haussler's] Cervelo [Test Team] and about three other riders who said, 'We want to protest, and we're not going to start race until Cavendish goes home.'

"The rest of the peloton said, 'You're being stupid, we're going to race.' And so Cervelo and the guys who wanted to protest changed their tune and said they protested for two minutes."

Cavendish finished that stage but retired afterwards to return to the Isle of Man for a family funeral. His injuries, he said, are healing well, and he has trained every day since returning from Switzerland. Later on Thursday he was heading to Manchester for a get-together with the British team for the World Championships - his second major target of the season - and Sunday's national road race championship.

But for the moment he is thinking only of the Tour. "Last year I was beaten twice in bunch sprints before the Tour, by [Tyler] Farrar and [Alessandro] Petacchi, and this year it's the same - I've got fewer wins but I've only been beaten twice. It's nothing to stress about.

"If you don't do the events to win, you're not going to win. I said in January that I wasn't going to do events where I'd win all the time. I was going to do events that would get me ready for the Tour.

"I think there are nine possible sprints," said Cavendish, who won six stages in last year's Tour. "If I don't win a stage I'll have failed. I want to win a stage. You have to be happy with any stage win at the Tour de France. But the green jersey is the goal this year, for me and the team - and I'm incredibly focused for it."