Cavendish ready to return to the limelight

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While all the focus was on yellow jersey wearer Chris Froome and Team Sky, Mark Cavendish took his time to relax with his family on Monday and recover at his team’s hotel in Brittany after a gruelling first week on this year’s Tour de France.

The Manxman survived a difficult two days in the Pyrenees but will now be hoping to return to the spotlight in northern France over the coming week, with several opportunities for stage wins likely to present themselves to the sprinters, starting with Tuesday’s 197-kilometre 10th stage from Saint-Gildas-des-Bois to Saint-Malo in Brittany.

Cavendish knows, however, that his chances of wrestling back the green jersey from Peter Sagan are slim, with the Slovak more than 100 points better off at the top of the standings and Germany’s Andre Greipel also above him.

That gap has built up after a week which featured a disappointing sixth stage, when a crash and then a poor lead-out ruined his chances of winning in Montpellier, but he says that there is plenty for him and his Omega-Pharma team to build on, especially after winning last Wednesday’s fifth stage into Marseille having also been beaten narrowly into second by Orica-Greenedge in the team time-trial in Nice a day earlier.

“There are no regrets about what happened in Montpellier. These are just things that can happen and I lost to one of the best guys in the world,” he said of his narrow loss to old rival Greipel.

“The first week was harder than usual and I’m tired now. It has been hot few days and wasn’t the best journey up here from the Pyrenees.

“The race route has been difficult and there has been no real control over the race for the first nine days which is pretty unusual for the Tour de France.

“But overall we are happy, we’ve got a stage win and narrowly missed out in the time trial, and now hopefully it will be a more relaxed second week.

“I think this week will be similar to what the first week of the Tour is usually like, with a bit less stress because the GC has kind of taken its shape so we will just see what happens.”

When asked about the yellow jersey prospects of his former Team Sky colleague and fellow Briton Froome, Cavendish admitted that the subject was irrelevant to him, as he focuses instead on his already slim chances of catching Sagan.

“There’s always a possibility I can catch him and I’ll just keep going,” he said.

“There’s no way we’ll change anything. Our only focus is on trying to win stages and see what happens from there, but Sagan is a great bike rider.”

As well as Tuesday, the sprinters should have the chance to impress on Thursday and Friday as the Tour heads back south towards Lyon and then the Alps.

Meanwhile, the Omega-Pharma team’s Danish sporting director Brian Holm admitted that Froome and the other present-day stars of the sport must get used to batting away questions about doping because past controversies mean cycling deserves to be treated with suspicion.

“People keep bringing it up because we deserve it, so you cannot be angry about being asked the question,” he said.

“We’ve got a strong tradition for doping in cycling. We’ve been lying for so many years.”

Holm, who has admitted doping while riding during the 1990s, spoke after questions were asked in some quarters about Team Sky following their extraordinary performance on Saturday’s stage eight, in which Froome produced the third-fastest time ever in the climb to the finish at Ax-Trois-Domaines in the Pyrenees.

“If you ask me straight, I wouldn’t lie. I think Froome is clean. I really think so, and I think (Bradley) Wiggins was clean when he won last year,” he added.

“If it’s not true it would break my heart. I can understand Chris Froome being a little annoyed at being asked the question, but we need to be open-minded and try not to let it get to us when these things happen.”

Text via AFP.