SERFAUS, Austria (AFP) – HTC-Highroad is looking for Mark Cavendish to step up and contend the final sprint stage of the Tour of Switzerland after two no-shows in the race so far.
The eighth and penultimate stage of the race is a 167.3 km ride from Tubach to Schaffhausen, with only two small climbs in the final 20km threatening to upset the sprinters’ plans for a bunch finish.Cavendish is primarily using the nine-stage event to hone his form for next month’s Tour de France, on which he has won an unrivalled 15 stages in four editions.
But after failing to contend the two previous sprint stages which, to be fair, did not suit his capabilities, the Isle of Man rider could make amends Saturday when the finish line, contrary to stages 4 and 5, is at the end of only a slight incline.
HTC-Highroad sports director Allan Peiper admits the opportunities for sprinters on the race are few and far between, but says stage 8 should suit Cavendish well.
“If they get one chance for a sprint on this race they’re lucky,” Peiper told AFP, claiming that the two sprint stages held midweek proved too challenging for the Manxman.
“The lead-up in the final kilometers was quite difficult and for a sprinter who has to go into the red a lot before the sprint even starts, that can be really telling.
“We have another sprint stage on Saturday and I think he’ll get his chance then.”
Fellow sporting director Valerio Piva meanwhile believes the spectacular crash which marred last year’s race, and which several riders blamed on Cavendish, has left the Briton hesitant — especially with the Tour de France just around the corner.
(Related: Cavendish relegated after Swiss crash)
“He was thinking a little bit about the crash from last year, and so he didn’t want to take any risks, and the Tour de France is just around the corner,” Piva told AFP.
“It was hard this crash (last year), especially with everyone pointing the finger at Cav, saying he was to blame, so he doesn’t want to have trouble now.
“But in the Tour, for sure, he will be doing everything to fight for his position.”
Norwegian Thor Hushovd of Garmin-Cervelo claimed victory on stage 4, in
the process taking his first victory as world road race champion.
Slovenian Borut Bozic of Vacansoleil then got the better of Spanish veteran Oscar Freire (Rabobank) in another uphill finish after Belgium’s Tom Boonen had launched an audacious bid for glory 1km from the line.
Freire has since quit the race to undergo a sinus operation.
Slovakian Peter Sagan meanwhile could finally come good, the Liquigas rider having finished a close second to Hushovd and third behind Bozic earlier this week.
The race, being led by Italian Damiano Cunego ahead of Friday’s last stage in the mountains, finishes with a 32.1km time trial on Sunday.