Mark Cavendish has no intention of letting his injury from Monday's epic mountain stage wreck his plans for going all the way to Paris and becoming Britain's first winner on the Tour's legendary Champs-Elysées stage.
"I've got no plans to stop," said Cavendish, who has already snapped up two stage victories in the Tour's first week, during the race's first rest day here in Pau yesterday. "I'm not overly optimistic about making it, but I'll take each day as it comes, and see how far I can get."
Winning on the Champs Elysées, the 23-year-old says, would be the perfect way to round off his second Tour: "That's the dream for any sprinter, to win there."
A crash in the first hour of Monday's stage could well have put paid to the Manxman's chances of completing the day's racing, let alone finishing the Tour.
"There was a football in the road, my bike slipped and I went down," said Cavendish, who gashed his right elbow in the accident. "It was just a cut, but it's quite deep. The race doctor gave me a painkiller that didn't agree with me and I felt blocked, I had no power."
Battered but undeterred, Cavendish rode over 50 miles and two major Pyrenean cols with only his team-mate Bernhard Eisel, for company. The two Columbia riders were so exhausted they could not even stay with the main group of non-climbers.
Cavendish finally finished last on the stage, 35 minutes down on the winner Leonardo Piepoli and seven minutes short of the time limit. When the Manxman reached the line, the new race leader Cadel Evans of Australia had finished his press conferences and was heading for his hotel.
"The first thing I did when I finished was hug Bernie [Eisel]. I was so proud of him." Cavendish said. "Without him my Tour would have been over."
Cavendish argues that there are another five possibilities of bunch sprints in the race's remaining two weeks. After two dominating victories, he is inevitably one of the favourites. "But they're only possibilities," he warned. "I came here for one stage win and I've already got two. Everything from now on is a bonus."
All teams are to leave the elite ProTour series run by the sport's governing body International Cycling Union (UCI), the teams on the Tour de France said yesterday. "It has been decided unanimously not to renew the ProTour licences for the 2009 season," the teams said in a joint statement.
The ProTour, which started in 2005, guaranteed the top teams a place in the leading races.
Tour de France standings
Overall classification: 1 C Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto 42hr 29min 09sec; 2 F Schleck (Lux) Team CSC +1sec; 3 C Vande Velde (US) Garmin-Chipotle +38; 4 B Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner +46; 5 D Menchov (Rus) Rabobank +57. GB: 48 D Millar (Garmin-Chipotle) +35:22; 158 M Cavendish (Columbia) +1:44:41.
Points: 1 O Freire (Sp) Rabobank 131pts; 2 K Kirchen (Lux) Columbia 124; 3 T Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 105. GB: 6 Cavendish 86.
King of the Mountains: 1 R Ricco (It) Saunier Duval 77pts; 2 D De la Fuente (Sp) Saunier Duval 65; 3 S Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner 57.
Young riders: 1 Ricco 42hr 31min 38sec; 2 V Nibali (It) Liquigas +1:49; 3 M Monfort (Bel) Cofidis +4:18.
Team standings: 1 Saunier Duval 127hr 29min 48sec; 2 Team CSC +4:40; 3 AG2R +9:29.
Alasdair Fotheringham writes for www.cyclingweekly.co.uk