British sprinter Mark Cavendish will compete at the Tour de France to win sprint stages, but more importantly, he looks to fine tune his form prior to the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Trying to earn his second consecutive Green Jersey isn’t out of question, but the Manx Missile would rather earn the gold medal in front of fans in his home country. To do this, the Team Sky rider is already four kilos below his normal racing weight, so he’ll be able to climb better.
The weight loss helped Cavendish recently earn the first general classification (GC) win of his career, when he won the Dutch Ster ZLM Toer stage race.
Cavendish has already collected 20 stage wins during the Tour de France, typically relying on a strong lead out train. As he enters the 2012 Tour lighter — and possibly less powerful — he’ll also have to contend with a team not built around his complete sprint dominance.
Not surprisingly, Cavendish isn’t lacking confidence ahead of the Tour. Here is what he recently said to the media:
“I will win stages but I may not win five. My sprint has suffered a little bit, but the guys who are sprinters, like I was, won't be there in the finish (of the Olympics). I am so much faster than the others anyway I can afford to lose a few percent in the sprint in order to be able to get to the line. It is worth it this one year, especially when the team is concentrating on the GC (general classification). It is worth doing that for the Olympics.”
Looking ahead to the Olympics road course, losing extra weight should suit Cavendish as he needs to battle leaner climbers. The race course includes Box Hill — not a nasty climb compared to the rated climbs during grand tours — but it will hurt the legs after nine laps of a steady tempo.
Expect the British, Belgian, and Spanish teams to put in a lot of work on the climb, as they look to keep their respective leaders out of trouble during the climbs. The other nations are most certainly going to try and drop Cavendish before the final sprint, and one of the circuits on Box Hill seems like the most likely place for an organized attack to take place.
The Tour ends on July 22, and the Olympics road race is just six days later. I expect the course to be a complete battlefield, as the best riders in the peloton hope to earn a medal while representing their nation.