Mark Cavendish, hot off his stage victory in Thursday’s run into Lleida, promises to ride all the way to Madrid when the Vuelta a España ends September 19 and fight for the points jersey.
With the world championships looming in Australia, Cavendish said he wants to finish the Vuelta and fight for what would be his first points jersey in a three-week grand tour.
“I want to finish the Vuelta and I’d like to win the green jersey,” Cavendish said. “I usually say that it comes from stage wins but here it’s different because the same number of points is allocated to mountain stages and flat stages, so it’s not just a big fight between sprinters. It depends on who wins what in the mountains too. I’ll try to get to Madrid and fight for intermediate sprints.”
The points jersey has proved elusive at the Tour de France despite winning 15 stages in three years, and the HTC-Columbia star looks to have a fight on his hands at the Vuelta for the points jersey. Cavendish holds a nine-point lead to Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions), 10 to Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and 18 to Philippe Gilbert (Omega-Lotto).
Thursday’s win gave the HTC-Columbia star victories in all three grand tours (15 in the Tour and five in the Giro) and put him in the driver’s seat for the points jersey.
“The Vuelta is a beautiful race. It’s pretty nice to have now won stages at each Grand Tour. Everyone knows the passion I have for these races. I used to watch them as a kid. To stand on the podium is pretty special,” he continued. “To do at the Vuelta what Malcolm Elliott did before is special. He still races when I race back at home. I’m not quite good looking like him but I try to be as good on a bike as he was at this kind of races.”
Going into Thursday’s stage at Lleida, Cavendish didn’t manage to win in three other sprint occasions so far in the race. He was pipped at the line in the first road stage a day after HTC-Columbia won the team time trial under the lights in Sevilla. Then Tyler Farrar and Alessandro Petacchi picked up victories, putting Cavendish in the unfamiliar position of finishing off the winner’s podium.
Cavendish said those near-misses were not fault of his fitness or motivation, but rather of circumstances of the race.
“We came here to the Vuelta with a group of young guys and the ambition to get in good shape for the world championship. It would have been nice to win one of the first stages but we bad luck with punctures and I got boxed in. I didn’t fail because of a lack of form,” Cavendish explained. “It’s nice to win again but it’s not a relief. I’m happy but not relieved, I don’t think so.”
Cavendish also said he wanted to allow teammate Matt Goss to win Thursday’s stage when the pair opened up a huge gap coming out of the final corner.
“Gossy (Matt Goss) is a pure co-sprinter while Mark Renshaw trains as a lead out man. Matt has done an incredible job today. I kind of wanted to give him the stage like I did two years ago at the Giro (to André Greipel) because I did nothing for winning today,” he said. “The team did everything. I was brought to the finish by my team. I’m grateful for that. But I looked behind and other riders were coming across. So I really had to take the win.”