Battle for Tour de France green jersey wide open

 Britain's sprinter and 2011 world road champion Mark Cavendish, right, is being interviewed after the official team presentation in Liege, Belgium, T...

Cycling Tour De France

Britain's sprinter and 2011 world road champion Mark Cavendish, right, is being interviewed after the official team presentation in Liege, Belgium, T...

Mark Cavendish might be the world's fastest man on a bicycle, but it's hard to see him pedaling to a second consecutive green jersey in three weeks when the Tour de France ends on the Champs-Elysees.
The "Manxman Missile," as the sprinter from the Isle of Man has been nicknamed by his fans, 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 London 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 for the stage finales as his Sky teammates will be working hard to fulfill their team leader Bradley Wiggins' ambition of becoming the first British rider to win the Tour.
The race starts on Saturday in Liege, Belgium, with a 6.4-kilometer prologue.
"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 the Tour favorite, Sky riders are unlikely to waste energy for Cavendish ahead of intermediate sprints _ which offer points that go toward the green jersey.
Changes to the points classification's rules implemented last year see sprint points allocated differently. There is only one intermediate sprint on each stage, with 20 points available to the rider who wins that _ as opposed to six points in previous years when there were more intermediate sprints.
"Stage wins aren't enough to win it (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 and featuring 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," said Orica-GreenEdge sports director Matt White. "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 prioritize 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 been enjoying 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 at his first Tour de France following an impressive tally of nine stage wins posted 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," said the Liquigas rider. "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."

Updated : 2021-04-17 02:49 GMT+08:00