Tour de France
Cavendish eyes green jersey
Mark Cavendish (AFP Photo)
Les Herbiers - Sprint king Mark Cavendish is hoping that adding to his impressive tally of stage wins will put him within reach of the Tour de France green jersey, despite the added difficulty of this year's race.
Cavendish has been the undisputed sprint master on the world's premier cycling event, notching up a record tally of 15 stage wins -- most from group or bunch sprints -- in three of his previous four participations.
Having missed out on the sprinters' main prize in 2010 to Italian Alessandro Petacchi, and finished only 10 points behind Norway's Thor Hushovd in 2009, the Isle of Man rider is not giving up the fight.
But while organisers have theoretically made that objective easier by tweaking the rules, the sprint stages themselves appear less than straightforward.
From the race's 21 stages only six -- stages three, five, seven, 11, 15 and 21 -- finish on the flat terrain favoured by Cavendish and his formidable lead-out train.
Although the most points are on offer at the stage finishes, he won't be ignoring the one intermediate sprint featuring in each stage.
"The way to win the green jersey is to win a lot of stages. I'll try to do both," he said at his HTC-Highroad team presentation Friday.
"There's 20 points on offer for an intermediate (sprint) so you have to do them.
"I'm going to concentrate as ever on me and the team doing our own jobs which is crossing the line first. It doesn't matter who is in second, third and fourth, as long as we try to win."
It took Cavendish until stage five to open his account in 2010, silencing the detractors after Petacchi had set out his stall by winning the first and fourth stages.
While Petacchi won the green jersey, Cavendish went on a winning spree which climaxed with yet another stage victory on the Champs Elysees.
Even before turning a pedal in anger, Cavendish feels the Tour is getting harder. He has simply tried to adapt accordingly.
"The last two years we've had more than 20 HC (hors categorie), Category one and Category two climbs," he added.
"That makes it a difficult route, plus all the intermediate stages are pretty up and down. You've just got to adapt. It's the Tour de France.
"I shouldn't expect the Tour de France to be designed for me to win sprints. We'll adapt and try to win whatever we can."
With several sprint stages also set for a hilly finish, Cavendish could find himself in the rare role of supporting more suited teammate Matt Goss of Australia.
"We'll change depending on the style of the run-in and who's up for that day," said Cavendish.
But before then, he fired a warning shot to his sprint rivals in other teams.
"I'm going good. This is the big race of the year. I'm lighter than last year, which is what you have to be," he said.
"When it's flatter you can come in with a bit better top end (speed) and a bit more weight. I lose a bit of top end but I'll get to the finish in better condition.
"It's just about adapting. I'm a professional cyclist, I have to do that. I've been working hard and I'm confident in my preparation.
"It's not that different to 2008 and I won a couple of stages in the first week there."