Cavendish focusing on London, opens up Tour sprinter's race

Publish date:

LIEGE, Belgium (AP) -- Mark Cavendish might be the world's fastest man on a bicycle. It's just hard to see him pedaling to a second consecutive green jersey when the Tour de France ends on the Champs-Elysees.

Cavendish, who is from the Isle of Man and is nicknamed the "Manxman Missile," is focusing on the Olympic road race, leaving wide open the battle for the Tour's best-sprinter title.

The defending world champion, who holds 20 Tour stage victories, has changed his training regimen this season, losing weight and power in order to tackle the nine climbs of Box Hill at the Olympics on home soil.

Using the Tour to hone his condition before London, Cavendish won't have the lead-out train that normally sets him up since his Sky teammates will be working hard to help team leader Bradley Wiggins become the first British rider to win the Tour.

The race starts Saturday with a quick, four-mile prologue in Liege.

"I probably won't win as much personally, in stages, but to be part of a team that holds real ambitions of winning the Tour de France overall, it's an honor for any bike rider," Cavendish said.

But riding alongside Wiggins has its downside, too. Ready to fight tooth-and-nail for one of the Tour contenders, Sky riders are unlikely to waste energy for Cavendish ahead of intermediate sprints - which offer points that go toward the green jersey.

Sprint points are allocated differently after changes were implemented last year. There is only one intermediate sprint on each stage, with 20 points available to the winner - as opposed to six points in previous years when there were more intermediate sprints.

"Stage wins aren't enough to win (the green jersey)," Cavendish said. "You have to go for the intermediates. Whether you're going to limit your losses or win them flat out, that's the tactic you've got to go for. I haven't got my eyes on green, to be honest, but there's always a chance."

Unlike Cavendish, his former teammate at the now-defunct HTC-Team, Matt Goss of Australia, will enjoy the support of a team built around him. It features lead-out men Sebastian Langeveld, Brett Lancaster and Daryl Impey.

A silver medalist at the worlds behind Cavendish, Goss, who won a stage at the Giro this year, joined the Orica-GreenEdge outfit at the end of last season and will be riding his second Tour after being part of Cavendish's sprint train last year.

"While we have a lot of goals for Gossy in the Tour, his main objective is clear," Orica-GreenEdge sports director Matt White said. "He is on the hunt for stage wins."

"There is a super strong contingent of sprinters here, not just Cavendish," Goss said. "It's important to have such a strong team for the lead out. Because if you don't have the lead out, you're the one that's following. If we've got a strong team we can stay in front of other teams."

In the absence of Tom Boonen, the Belgian star who decided to skip the Tour to focus on the Olympics, other green jersey contenders include Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel of Germany, Alejandro Valverde of Spain, veteran Alessandro Petacchi of Italy and Peter Sagan of Slovakia.

Sagan, considered by many as cycling's new prodigy, has put together a superb start to his professional career, claiming stage wins at the Spanish Vuelta, Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie and Tour of Switzerland in the past two years.

Competing in his first Tour de France following an impressive tally of nine stage wins this spring at the Tour of California and Tour of Switzerland, Sagan has the potential to make an impact on the biggest stage.

"I'm not scared of anything," the Liquigas rider said. "I think I've done well this season. I hope that in the Tour I'll do well because it's a very important race. In the Tour, there are all the top riders and sprinters here for the green jersey. I want the jersey, but it's very difficult to take it in the Tour."