The conundrum that Mark Cavendish faces in his quest to win his first green jersey may well be inhibiting his ability to win stages as easily as he used to, writes Anthony Tan from Carmaux.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM


Cavendish is a whinger
So… Mark Cavendish is beatable, after all. And despite what some people
said before today, André Greipel is not intimidated by his former
team-mate-turned-foe.

It's noteworthy that I had a intriguing
conversation today in Carmaux with Jean-François Quénet, a veteran
French cycling journalist, who is on his twenty-second Tour de France.
Among many things, we discussed the green jersey competition and
Cavendish's potential to win it.

In an interview to be podcast on Cycling Central
this week, I asked Quénet about Cavendish's reply to my question four
days ago in Châteauroux, where he took his second scalp of the race and
his seventeenth Tour stage victory.

In a nutshell, Cavendish said
that, "the biggest hindrance to [winning] the green jersey is just the
lack of absolute bunch sprints. The change in the points is kind of
indifferent – it's neither here nor there – it's the lack of absolute
bunch sprints that will hinder my progress."

The Manxman added
that the green jersey classification suits a more attacking-style rider,
such as the two who currently precede him on the points leaderboard,
Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and José Joaquin Rojas (Movistar),
on 226 and 209 points, respectively.

"Cavendish is a whinger," Quénet began by saying.

"The
new regulation has been made for Cavendish. That's what they said at
the Tour de France presentation [last year in Paris]. They didn't say
they made the new rules for Cavendish, but everyone interpreted the new
rules, saying, 'Oh, that's better for Cavendish', because Cavendish was
winning six stages of the Tour [in 2008] but still not winning the green
jersey.

"The good thing about the new regulation is that it has
opened the green jersey to more riders than before," said the Frenchman,
who added that that just because the classification now favours
Cavendish more, does not make it a done deal.

"In the past few
years, let's say a maximum of three riders could target the green
jersey. And the green jersey is not the jersey for the best sprinter –
the green is the jersey for the points classification. And points are
for all stages. And stages that allocate the biggest number of
points are the stages for sprinters, so Cavendish shouldn't complain
about that."

* * *

The catch for Cavendish, however, is
that in order to win the competition for green, he must go not just for
stage wins – for the pure sprinter, there are no more than six available
in this year's race – but the intermediate sprints as well.

"This
is the situation at the Tour de France: [the sprinters] have to make a
choice," said Quénet, "and maybe Cavendish is not able to sprint twice a
day. He's for sure the best sprinter in the world right now for once a
day – but now he has to sprint twice a day.

"He doesn't give [the
intermediate sprints his] all. I can see him sprinting at these
hot-spot sprints… he saves some energy for the rest of the race – he
doesn't sprint full-gas for hot-spot sprints like the finishes. And he's
right to do so, because otherwise he may not be able to sprint at all
at the finish."

As Tuesday's tenth stage showed, Cavendish is
keen to contest the intermediate sprints, where he picked up another
nine points, winning the sprint behind the six-man early breakaway, and
was led out by none other than his lieutenant ever-faithful, Mark
Renshaw.

But in doing so, it may have cost him his punch when
sprinting against Greipel in the finale, as the hulk of a German kicked
out hard off Cav's wheel – who perhaps jumped a tad too early – and
surprised him with a preternatural burst of speed.

Interestingly,
Greipel, who is some way down the points classification in sixth place,
on 123 points to Cavendish's 197, did not bother at all with the
intermediate sprint prime Tuesday, saving all his energy for his first
Tour de France stage win. "This is one of the – no, this is the
greatest moment on my bike," Greipel said, adding: "This is one of the
best moments of my life, after the birth of my two daughters."

* * *

"[The
situation] could be even worse for him," Quénet said of Cavendish's
standing on the points classification, and what he has to do to win the
jersey he so desperately covets.

"Because if you go to the Tour
of Spain or the Tour of Italy, the number of points for the points
classification is the same for every stage – whether it's a flat stage
or a mountain stage. And at the Giro, some years you have [Alessandro]
Petacchi winning the points classification and another year you have
Cadel Evans. The [points] jersey is more for sprinters at the Tour de
France than any other Grand Tour.

"Okay, looking at the
classification now, it makes it a bit complicated for Cavendish to win
it. He can still win it. But it's up to him to adjust his tactic to his
goals, and he has to know what his goals really are… he can't have
everything. He can't have all the stage wins and the green jersey.

"He wants a lot of glory," said Quénet. "But if he wants everything he has to win everything."

Or, could it simply be that Cavendish is not as speedy as he once was?

In
a Twitter poll I conducted straight after Tuesday's stage, I asked the
question: "Is Cavendish as quick as he was in 2008/9? Yes or no?"

75 percent of you answered 'No' – that Cavendish is no longer as fast as he used to be.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_tan