• Mark Cavendish has cards to play at the Tour de France. (Getty)Source: Getty
Mark Cavendish has tried but failed to deflect media attention to teammate Steve Cummings as he enters the Tour de France on shaky ground.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
1 Jul 2017 - 10:08 AM 

The 32-year-old started to mention Cummings at Thursday’s official team's presentation and did so again at the Dimension Data pre-race press conference on Friday.

Cavendish claimed his outfit would majority support the British national champion's endeavours at the 104th edition of the race, in the wake of his own recovery from Epstein-Barr virus that has scuppered his season.

“Steve Cummings is leading the team here so he’s got many opportunities over the three weeks to fight for Dimension Data,” the Manxman said.

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But it was clearly news to his mate Cummings, whose perplexed face sat next to the 30-time Tour stage winner told the truth. 

In fairness, Cummings signalled his return to form at the British Nationals last weekend and has won two emphatic Tour stages in as many years for incarnations of Dimension Data. He along with Cavendish and Edvald Boasson Hagen, also at the press conference, has a shot at personal glory.

But it was Cavendish who happily took over the main stage, speaking to a small group of international reporters here in Düsseldorf, Germany.

The former world champion estimates he has had seven weeks to prepare for the Tour de France, which he enters on the back of the Tour of Slovenia.

“I’m not in ideal condition but the good thing about being a sprinter is you can win on luck. If you pick the right wheels and get the right run, there’s a chance you can win. It’s worth coming here with that chance,” he said.

Cavendish, especially in recent years, has proved exemplary in messy bunch sprints. That skill went some way to his resurgence to sprint supremacy at the Tour last season.

However, he and chief lead-out pilot Mark Renshaw have both been pensive in their respective considerations about form and success at the race, given illness and injury.

Dimension Data has selected an opportunistic squad over a dedicated sprint train reminiscent of the pair’s halcyon Highroad days.

However, there are still more than enough engines in the line-up to place Cavendish where he needs to be.

How that matches up with the more regimented men called on to support Germans Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) and Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step) remains to be seen.

“For sure Marcel Kittel is the man to watch in the sprints, he’s got the strongest team,” Cavendish said.

“I think the pressure will be on him to deliver, especially at the start here in Germany. And he looks in good form for that.

“Of course, I’d be a fucking idiot if I didn’t try and ride off the strongest team in the race. That’s what cycling is about.

“As I said, as a sprinter you can get lucky if you find the right wheels and find the right line, even if you are under par you can still do it. For sure, it’s part of the tactic of sprinting.”

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