• Cavendish is on the horns of a dilemma: stay in the Tour and risk Rio gold, or leave and miss out on potential victory in Paris? (AAP)Source: AAP
With the green jersey now out of reach, should Mark Cavendish struggle through the Alps in search of Champs d'Elysees glory or leave now to prep for the Olympics?
Sophie Smith

19 Jul 2016 - 8:19 AM  UPDATED 19 Jul 2016 - 6:04 PM

Mark Cavendish apparently has no premeditated exit strategy in place at the Tour de France despite speculation he would leave early to prepare for a medal bid on the track at the Rio Olympic Games.

Cavendish has won four stages in the race thus far as well as holding both the yellow and green jerseys. The unofficial sprinters’s world championship on the Champs Elysees on Sunday may be incentive enough for the Manxman to now push through four days in the Alps and make it five.

“From our point of view, there is no plan,” Dimension Data sports director Roger Hammond said on the eve of the second rest day.

“It’s the Tour de France and like we’ve always said with every interview, [taking it] day-by-day seems to have been working until now.”

Cavendish has managed track and road blocks all season and has used these to his advantage at the Tour. Bunch gallops less conducive to typical lead-outs and more navigational nous have also worked in the Manxman’s favour and put him on top of the board over chief rivals Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal).

“He’s got the confidence of the team and the riders are really digging deep for him. Mark has always been one to thrive on positive pressure so I think that’s part of it, the other part of it is the track has given him another huge goal to go for this year. It’s given him a new focus so I think we’re seeing stage wins positively influenced by track preparation and that goal,” Hammond said.


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Pressure to perform

Dimension Data is a smaller team than some of the previous stables Cavendish has donned a jersey for and the former world champion entered this Tour not as the main man, with more public consideration given to Kittel and Greipel. The pressure to perform was still there but perhaps abetted by the pre-race spotlight shining less brightly on the now 30-time stage winner.

“Mark always says the Tour de France is the be-and-end-all of his cycling life, so he comes here with pressure. It’s only his own pressure, it doesn’t matter how much people write about him, his self-inflicted pressure is the biggest,” Hammond said.

“He has never shied away from the fact that the Tour is the biggest bike race in the world to him. He was under pressure to perform here - the whole team was. There’s not one team in the Tour de France that isn’t under pressure to perform. If they say that then it’s probably because they’re trying to shy away from it than face up to it.”

The Tour observes its second rest day on Tuesday before four days in the Alps on the way to Paris. A win on the Champs Elysees, if he makes it, would be Cavendish’s first since 2012 with Team Sky.

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