The British rider has already won three stages so far in this Tour – 29 in total in his career – and his Dimension Data team director Rolf Aldag believes that his performances in this year’s race are up there with anything the sprinter has achieved in the Tour before.
“I rate the three wins higher than many other wins he had in the past because he really had to get himself into that mental frame here because even when there was no one around him he had to be at his mental best in the sprints,” Aldag told Cyclingnews.
The German has worked with Cavendish for the majority of the sprinter’s career and came with him to Dimension Data at the start of the year. Since then Cavendish has looked to dovetail an Olympic track programme and his ambitions on the road. His results in the Tour have proved that he made the right call, with the track training being held up as part of the reason for his Tour form. Aldag also pointed to the increased competition Cavendish faces in the sprints as to why his 2016 race has gone beyond the past achievements.
“To be fair to him, I think that the competition here is much better than a few years ago when he was winning more stages. It’s hard to compare. In the past he was more dominant in the sprint but was that because he was better or the others were worse? The competition is really, really high now.”
With the Pyrenees behind him, Cavendish can focus on what he does best for at least one more stage. He suffered for four consecutive days, making the time limit thanks in part to the support of his teammates, especially Bernard Eisel.
“I think he has two to three [more opportunities] but I don’t really know about the stage in Switzerland – that’s a hard one to judge. From an elevation side it could be doable but does it suit Edvald [Boasson Hagen] more than Cavendish? We will have a close look and then see. First I’m just happy that Mark got over the major climb because otherwise it would have been a very long day in the office today.”
Cavendish’s climbing, at this point, could be the major factor that dictates whether he reaches Paris. Before the race the assumption was that he would do part of the race before leaving and focusing on the track. That was the approach British Cycling coaches prescribed as their preferred option.
“He’s of course not looking like Contador or Froome and he’s done all this power work and has really good acceleration force but that doesn’t really make him a better climber. He has more muscles and all these muscles need oxygen and that’s why he sometimes looks like a tomato but he gets himself up there and he does it with big morale and it’s important to see him fighting.
“We have a masterplan to go on but first we need to get over the climbs because the way things stand I don’t see all the remaining riders getting to Paris. I wouldn’t see that as a failure; if you can’t do it then you just can’t do it. There are a few stages, he knows, we all know it, where we have to just get over the climbs.”