HTC Columbia likely to put Tour GC ambitions aside in order to help Cavendish
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

HTC Columbia likely to put Tour GC ambitions aside in order to help Cavendish

by Conal Andrews at 8:26 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 

Seeking to guarantee that Mark Cavendish wins the Maillot Vert in the Tour de France this year, the HTC Columbia team has suggested that it will put general classification ambitions on hold in July 2010.

If implemented, the goal would be to use the all-rounders to control things on the intermediate stages and to stop riders like Thor Hushovd from jumping away and clocking up points. Cavendish won six stages in 2009 but lost out to Hushovd as the Norwegian was able to profit on tougher terrain.

Controlling things in these circumstances is the likely tactic this year.

“Cav is the quickest sprinter I have seen in my lifetime,” said the team’s sprinting advisor Erik Zabel, according to the Telegraph newspaper. “The only rider who compares is Mario Cipollini, who was my great rival. What makes Cav different is his acceleration over the first 50 metres in his final effort.

“The green jersey this season for him is logical. His first Tour he raced for a week, his second Tour he won four stages and stopped. His third Tour he won six stages and reached Paris. Now he must win the green jersey. He is our podium rider.”

Zabel expanded on this in another interview, this time in the Guardian newspaper. "I told them [senior team management], 'Our biggest chance to get on the podium in Paris is not in the general classification but with Mark in the green jersey. So for 2010 let's give up our other ambitions and put all our energy into it."

In order to do this, the team’s second-strongest sprinter André Greipel is likely to ride the Tour and to help lead out Cavendish. Others such as Tony Martin and Michael Rogers, who usually ride for the general classification, will also be required to sacrifice their own chances.

Cavendish will also hope to avoid the controversial disqualification he faced during the 2009 Tour, when an apparent attempt to impede Hushovd resulted in him losing a clutch of points.

"It's a sprinter's jersey and at the end of the day last year I wasn't really wrong when I predicted that six stage wins should have won the points title,” said Cavendish. “That's taking nothing away from Thor but the 14 points I lost from my disqualification [in stage 14 in Besançon] were the difference."

He finished second overall in Paris, ten points behind Hushovd. The Norwegian was sixth on the final stage, but in theory might have paid closer attention to Cavendish had the final outcome depended on the sprint.

Both Hushovd and Cavendish have outlined the Tour’s green jersey and October’s world road race championship in Geelong, Australia, as two of their biggest goals for the year.

Cavendish is undoubtedly straighter in a flat sprint, but can lose out in tougher finishes such as that seen in Barcelona last July. There, Hushovd prevailed in the uphill drag to the line.

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