Cycling-Cavendish sticks to his plan in green jersey battle

Reuters

Wed, 29 Jun 02:00:00 2011

World-class sprinter Mark Cavendish will not change his strategy in his bid to become Britain's first winner of the Tour de France green jersey despite big changes in the way points are awarded.

"My strategy for the green jersey is still to win as many stages as possible and minimise my losses on the intermediate (mid-stage) sprints," the HTC-Highroad rider told reporters ahead of Saturday's start.

"Technically that is the best way to get it because you still get the most points in the finishes.

"It hasn't worked out in the last two years, although (in) 2009 I should have won it. But my focus is still on getting stage wins first. Last year I was the fastest, but I wasn't the most consistent."

This year, Tour organisers have reduced the number of mid-race intermediate sprints to one but also raised the number of points for the first rider across the line in the sprint to 20, compared with 35 for the outright stage winner.

Fifteen riders, instead of three previously, will collect points in the intermediate sprints.

However, Cavendish says he will be sticking to his general approach to the five flat stages that he calculates will end in bunch sprints in this year's Tour.

"We've done our homework and studied each stage in real detail, right down to the last three kilometres before each intermediate.

"That's the way this team has always worked, really studying everything in advance."

"I will commit (sprint) in the intermediates. But intermediate sprints have never decided the green jersey and we won't be working to pull back breaks any earlier."

IMPROVED CONDITION

Cavendish, 26, believes his condition is stronger than it was in 2010.

"I'm leaner and I haven't had any crashes in the Tour de Suisse like I did last year."

However, the Briton said his improved condition did not guarantee him his first ever spell in yellow on the race's first stage, which ends with a long but shallow climb to the Mont des Alouettes.

"I've won on harder but lost on easier, I'm not going to be a favourite," he said.

Cavendish named last year's points winner Alessandro Petacchi of Italy and Britain's Ben Swift as sprinters he expected to do well and said he was lucky to have Milan-San Remo 2011 winner Matt Goss in his team.

With 15 Tour stage victories in his career, Cavendish is equal ninth with Belgian sprinter Freddy Maertens in the rankings of the most prolific stage winners of all time.

Since 1980, only five-times Tour winner Bernard Hinault (28) and seven-times Tour champion Lance Armstrong (22) have won more.

Despite taking five stages in 2010, Cavendish refused to be drawn on how many he could win this year.

"Just one is enough to make a rider's career and if I take one, I'll be satisfied," Cavendish said. "It's the Tour, you've got to be."

He did not rule out, either, more of the incidents that have characterised his previous Tours, such as the floods of tears when he won his first stage last year, outbursts of anger when he loses or voluble, high-powered answers in media conferences.

"You can count on that, you can bet on that 100 percent," he said with a grin.

 

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