Cycling: Mark Cavendish will take back seat to aid Bradley Wiggins
Mark Cavendish is happy to put his personal ambitions on hold in order to help propel a Briton to victory in the Tour de France for the first time. Last year Cavendish became the first Briton to claim the green jersey but with this year's Tour looming – it begins in Liège on Saturday – he has admitted he does not expect to be wearing it in Paris in three weeks' time.
It is a story of firsts. Cavendish will be riding his first Tour for Sky – his sixth in all – and the ambitious British team's priority is to put Bradley Wiggins in the yellow jersey. Cavendish yesterday asserted he would be proud to play a part in making that happen before he switches his attention to the Olympics and his bid to win Britain's first gold.
"I've not got my eyes on green to be honest," he said in London yesterday ahead of the team's departure for Belgium. "I probably won't win as many stages [this year], but it's an honour to be part of a British team that is ambitious to win the Tour overall for a British rider. In Bradley we've got the biggest chance we'll ever have as a nation. It's exciting to go in and follow that ambition."
Dave Brailsford, Sky's team principal, said last week that Cavendish's challenge for green would "not be neglected" but the focus will be on Wiggins.
"I always knew the aim was to win the Tour de France with Sky," added Cavendish of his decision to join a team not assembled around his abilities. But Cavendish will not have to wait long for his needs to be catered for in the Tour as well. From next year Sky's ambitions are even grander. He said: "The aim in the next few years is to win yellow and green."
With Sky's focus on yellow and Cavendish having the goal of Olympic gold beyond the Tour – the road race takes place in London six days after the Tour finishes in Paris – his preparation for this summer has been markedly different from previous years.
Earlier this month he posted his first general classification victory in the four-day Ster ZLM Toer in the Netherlands and his training has become more varied, something that has appealed to him.
"My form is really good," said Cavendish, who also won three stages of the Giro d'Italia despite a bad crash on the third stage. "I've done what I need to – the preparation has gone right. It's going to be a long July. I might not dominate the sprints but I should be there or thereabouts. It broadens my mind and broadens my body to race in different ways."
Some of his Olympic rivals, such as the Belgian Tom Boonen, are skipping the Tour to focus on the Games. But Cavendish has no intention of dropping out early for the road race on 28 July. "It's not ideal," he said. "But the last week [of the Tour] shouldn't take as much out of us as the other tours."
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