SAINT-NAZAIRE, France (AFP) — While all the focus was on yellow jersey wearer Chris Froome and Sky, Mark Cavendish took his time to relax with his family on Monday and recover at his team’s hotel in Brittany after a grueling first week on the Tour de France.
The Manxman survived a difficult two days in the Pyrénées but will now be hoping to return to the spotlight in northern France over the coming week, with several opportunities for stage wins likely to present themselves to the sprinters, starting with Tuesday’s 197-kilometer 10th stage from Saint-Gildas-des-Bois to Saint-Malo in Brittany.
Cavendish knows, however, that his chances of wrestling back the green jersey from Peter Sagan (Cannondale) are slim, with the Slovak more than 100 points better off at the top of the standings and André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) between them.
That gap has built up after a week that featured a disappointing sixth stage, when a crash and an impressive leadout from Lotto ruined his chances of winning in Montpellier, but Cavendish said Monday that there is plenty for him and his Omega Pharma team to build on, especially after winning last Wednesday’s fifth stage into Marseille.
“There are no regrets about what happened in Montpellier. These are just things that can happen and I lost to one of the best guys in the world,” he said of his narrow loss to old rival Greipel. “The first week was harder than usual and I’m tired now. It has been hot few days and it wasn’t the best journey up here from the Pyrénées.
“The race route has been difficult and there has been no real control over the race for the first nine days, which is pretty unusual for the Tour de France. But overall we are happy, we’ve got a stage win and narrowly missed out in the [team] time trial, and now hopefully it will be a more relaxed second week.
Cavendish said he expected the race’s second week to play out similarly to how its first week ordinarily would, but with less stress because the GC has been sorted.
When asked about the yellow jersey prospects of his former Sky colleague and fellow Briton Froome, Cavendish admitted that the subject was irrelevant to him, as he focuses instead on his already slim chances of catching Sagan.
“There’s always a possibility I can catch him and I’ll just keep going,” he said. “There’s no way we’ll change anything. Our only focus is on trying to win stages and see what happens from there, but Sagan is a great bike rider.”
In addition to Tuesday, the sprinters should have the chance to impress on Thursday and Friday as the Tour heads back south towards Lyon and then the Alps.