RENNES, France (AFP) — After finally ending his nearly two-year wait for a Tour de France stage win, Mark Cavendish expressed a strong desire to continue riding for Belgian team Etixx-Quick-Step.
The 30-year-old Manx sprinter’s contract at Etixx runs out at the end of this year, and team manager Patrick Lefevere had said that was waiting “for a sign” before starting contract negotiations.
“I’ve grown with this team, I’m really happy, you can see the ambiance we’ve got at Quick-Step. I’d love to stay here, I really would,” said Cavendish after winning Friday’s seventh stage from Livarot to Fougères, his first Tour stage win since July 12, 2013—a crash in the first stage the 2014 Tour knocked him out of the race that year.
“It’s a very Belgian team. If you know the Belgian people, they’re kinda warm, we’re a small community team,” said Cavendish.
“They really have their roots, like a family going out and racing. They live for cycling, for riding bikes.
“All the marketing and publicity that goes around professional cycling takes a back seat to racing bicycles. I’m a fan of racing my bike, it means everything to me to be around a team of like-minded people.
“It’s really nice to come away and race with like-minded people.”
Lefevere said he was happy for Cavendish and insisted his sprinter had deserved a win earlier in the race, having finished third and fourth in the two previous sprint finishes.
Meanwhile, another British rider whose 2014 Tour campaign ended in disaster is getting himself back into a positive state of mind as well: 2013 champion Chris Froome said he’d been recovering his confidence this year after crashing out of last year’s Tour with a broken wrist.
“Especially given what happened last year, it was a really a big goal for me mentally more than physically this first week to really arrive here with the attitude to race and ride at the front of the race and arrive here without any major issues,” said the 30-year-old Sky team leader.
He also noted a reduction in tension following several nervous, crash-filled stages during the first week.
“You could feel [on Friday] everyone was a lot more relaxed in the bunch,” said the race leader.
Froome headed into Saturday’s stage with an 11-second lead over Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) in the overall standings, with Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing) a few more seconds back.
Froome is confident that he can hold onto the yellow jersey ahead of Monday’s first rest day and Tuesday’s first summit finish in the mountains.
Beating Sagan’s Tinkoff-Saxo team, which also includes Alberto Contador, who is 36 seconds back, and Van Garderen’s BMC squad in Sunday’s team time trial will be crucial to that goal.
“We’re going to have to get through [Saturday] first but I really think we’ve got a really strong team here, especially on that parcours we’ve got for the team time trial,” said Froome.
“It’s very testing, I think we’re up for it, I really think if everyone gets through alright [on Friday] we should be looking to be up there with the best in the team time trial.”