Before the Tour de France, Mark Cavendish identified four stages in the first week that he felt he could win. Sunday’s sprint went to Thor Hushovd, Cavendish was 27th and admitted that he felt tired on the run-in.

On Monday, four riders broke away and foiled the sprinters. Today’s 232km fifth stage from Cholet to Chateauroux is Cavendish’s chance number three. Team Columbia’s manager Brian Holm said “It’s all for Cavendish today.”

And he said that the longer stage will suit the Isle of Man rider better. “The longer ones are easy,” said Holm. “The shorter stages are a nightmare they’re so difficult to control and they race at 50kmh all day.”

“On a longer stage a break will go and the bunch will relax a bit. No one will want to do too much until the finish. For sure, Cavendish will be tired at the finish but he doesn’t lose the explosion like some sprinters do.”

“The team are fully behind him,” confirmed Holm. “He’s learned so much since last year when he was nervous and didn’t know how to cope with it all. This year he is confident and has every right to be.”

“He doesn’t say he’s the fastest in the world to disrespect other riders, he says it because he is.”

“He’s very popular in the team. He respects everyone and they respect him. Off the bike he’s so polite, a real gentleman. It’s just that on it he turns into this monster. He wants to win, but now he’s coping when things don’t go his way.”

Mark Cavendish was the centre of attention at the start and Team Columbia’s PR staff escorted him along a line of television interviewers. He looked relaxed, a far cry from the edgy young man of 12 months ago.

Cavendish said: “I hope it’s going to be a sprint today, I can’t say whether it will or won’t but I hope it will.”

“I feel strong and the team is very strong if there’s a chance, I hope I can take it.”

Meanwhile, his Team Columbia team-mate Adam Hansen said “The breaks are very hard to control this year because race radio is not giving any updates until a break gets a 30 second gap in the first 50km.”

“It’s difficult to know whose in the break and whether it’s going to be dangerous, so everyone is very nervous.”

Hansen told us more about his support role for team-mate Cavendish in an interview this morning.

SORE LEGS

Cavendish tried to rest up on Tuesday and recover as much as possible for the stage to Chateauroux and the other flat stages where he has a great chance of victory.

After finishing the time trial he talked at length with the Columbia mechanics about his time trial position and set up of his bike, making sure they got things just right.

Cavendish has been using coloured muscle adhesive taping on his legs to prevent any major problems because of the heavy workload on his muscles.

Tour de France 2008

?It was a hard time trial, It was windy and up and down and so I couldn?t relax too much but it was okay,? he told Cycling Weekly after warming down.

?I used the tape strapping because I?m a bit stiff and because I?m putting strain on muscles I don?t usually do. Although the early stages of the Tour are classified as flat days, we?ve actually done 2,600 metres of climbing and so my muscles have been getting a bit sore. Tape helps correct them, keep things in check and makes sure I?m good for the sprints when I need to be.?

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE REPORTS

Stage four: Schumacher wins TT and takes race lead

Stage three: Dumoulin wins stage from break

Stage two: Hushovd wins chaotic sprint

Stage one: Valverde wins

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: NEWS

Tour comment: Why Evans should be happy [stage four]

Millar: Still aiming for Tour yellow jersey [stage 4]

Who is Romain Feillu?

Cavendish disappointed with stage two result

Millar too close to Tour yellow jersey

Stage 2 preview: A sprint finish for Cavendish?

Millar happy after gains precious seconds in Plumelec

Valverde delighted with opening Tour stage win

Comment: Is Valverde’s win a good thing for the Tour?

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: PHOTOS

Stage four

Stage three

Stage two

Stage one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: GUIDE

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