ANNECY, France (VN) — Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) races towards Paris on Sunday for a shot at what would be a record fifth consecutive stage win on the Champs-Élysées. It would end his Tour de France on a high note after several lows.
“I’m tired, I’m very tired. I don’t remember being this tired in the days leading to Paris,” Cavendish said at the start of stage 20.
“Normally, we wouldn’t have finished in the mountains like today; we would have had a time trial or a medium day. [But] I’ve got a good team, and they’ve got me through the mountains already. We have incentive for tomorrow.”
Cavendish has won every stage on Paris’ Champ-Élysées since 2009. Last year, he became the first world champion to do so.
The conclusion to the 100th edition takes on special meaning as the organizer delayed the finish by a few hours. Instead of its usual 5 o’clock slot, the riders will finish the final Champs-Élysées circuit around 9:45 p.m. — right in time with sundown.
“It’d be real special to win the final stage of the 100th edition, but there are many strong sprinters,” said Cavendish. “I’ve won two stages; Marcel [Kittel] has won three. Obviously, André Greipel is trying to get his second. There’s a good few sprint teams here.”
A clear day is expected but riders still need to be aware. Their bodies will react differently to racing at that hour, much like racing a post-Tour night criterium, and they will have to be even more careful of the Champs’ cobbles.
“It’s one of my most nervous days. Even tonight, the day before Paris, a team will have a nice dinner and a celebration, but we’ve got to be pretty serious tonight. It’s probably the biggest day for us tomorrow,” said Cavendish.
“There’s one hole that everyone knows as you come down to Place de la Concorde. Apart from that, it’s just a little bit darker.”
The win would help save Cavendish’s Tour. Despite Omega Pharma firing on all cylinders — Tony Martin won a time trial and Matteo Trentin escaped to win in Lyon — Cavendish failed to win as often as in the past.
His train was outgunned in Montpellier and he helped cause a crash in Saint-Malo. Off the bike, he snatched a journalist’s voice recorder and snapped at other scribes on Mont Ventoux.
Over the winter, Cavendish switched to Omega Pharma from Sky, where the aim was winning stage races rather than sprints. Last year, instead of his usual four to six stage wins, he won three. This year, despite the team change, he has only two.
The situation helps add to the tension Cavendish feels on the eve of the Tour’s final stage. Cav being Cav, however, he will likely use the adversity to his advantage.