Tour de France sprint king Mark Cavendish admitted he could face a tougher challenge from his rivals this year as he takes aim at more stage wins in the three-week race.
Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) won an amazing six stages from bunch finishes in 2009, taking his tally to 10 after winning four stages on his second participation in 2008.
This year Cavendish’s main aim is to challenge for the points classification’s green jersey, which he narrowly missed out on last year after an at times controversial duel with Norwegian Thor Hushovd.
Hushovd has declared he is not so interested in the sprinters’ tunic this year while Belgian Tom Boonen, a former winner, is not competing in the Tour.
Cavendish, however, still has another few big names that he has to outgun if he wants to add to his sprint glory.
As well as Rabobank’s Oscar Freire, a three-time world champion, the Brit admitted that American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions), who came close but not enough on several occasions last year, could be his biggest threat,
“Obviously there’s a few great guys in the sprint. I spoke to Tyler yesterday and he’s looking incredibly fit so I think he’ll be a big threat,” said Cavendish. “Oscar’s been going good this year, and Thor can’t be counted out either.”
Despite a topsy-turvy season so far, Cavendish honed his form at the Tour of Switzerland last month and believes he has the legs to tackle both the sprints and the mountains, where Hushovd took a lot of points towards his win last year.
But the priority, he said, was for his teammates to get that all-important first stage win under their belts.
“We’ve got a great team, a very diverse team this year,” he added. “I’m physically great, I was climbing good in the Tour of Switzerland and my preparation has gone well. I don’t know exactly how good I will be until I start the race. But we have to win a stage first and foremost, whether that’s with or without me.”
“If we don’t win a stage then the green jersey’s not likely to come.”
Cavendish has only finished the Tour once, in 2009, and once again that will be crucial to his green jersey ambitions.
“Last year I came to the Tour and I hadn’t reached Paris yet, this year I know I can reach Paris so that’s why the green jersey is a target for me.”