With the final sprints to come on the Champs-Elysèes on Sunday, the question is: Can Mark Cavendish win the green jersey?
His fourth stage win of the Tour de France – more than any other rider – came on Friday in Bordeaux. Alessandro Petacchi, the Italian veteran riding for Lampre, was third to take the green jersey from Thor Hushovd, who could manage only 14th place.
Petacchi now leads the Norwegian by 10 points, with Cavendish 16 adrift. Cavendish has been out of the hunt for the green jersey. Until now. It’s a slim chance but if everything went their way on Sunday, HTC-Columbia could take the jersey in Paris.
Now it becomes a simple matter of mathematics. Saturday’s time trial will not be relevant. None of the riders will finish highly enough on the stage to score any points.
So the points competition could potentially come down to three final sprints on the famous Parisian boulevard on Sunday. The 102.5-kilometre stage from Longjumeau will set off at a leisurely pace but could burst into life when they reach the centre of the French capital.
HTC-Columbia now have to decide whether to contest the two intermediate sprints, which come after 58 and 77.5 kilometres. They have to calculate whether it is worth keeping the race together to set up Cavendish to try to win six points at each sprint and chip away at Petacchi and Hushovd.
The likelihood, though, is that Cavendish might only trip Petacchi’s advantage by four points, but that could be crucial.
However, come the finish line Cavendish would still be needing snookers. Petacchi would have to finish outside the top six.
Still, it has been a remarkable comeback by Cavendish, who had a torrid first week, crashing in Brussels and sitting up in Reims when well beaten. Since then he has won four stages, with the strong possibility of a fifth in Paris.
Petacchi, who is under investigation for doping back in Italy, looks the favourite. Hushovd trails by 10 points but does not look like he has the speed to challenge for the victory in Paris.
HOW IT STANDS
1. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre 213pts
2. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervélo 203pts
3. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia 197pts
POINTS ON OFFER
Two intermediate sprints on the Champs-Elysèes, using the finish line, at
Over the line, the winner will get 35 points, second place 30, then 26, 24, 22, 20. Points go down to 25th place.
BEST CASE SCENARIO FOR CAVENDISH
He wins both intermediate sprints, with Petacchi and Hushovd failing to score. That would mean the stage win would give him green even if Petacchi finished second.
Cavendish wins both intermediate sprints but Petacchi takes second at both. That would mean a Cavendish stage win would be enough to take green as long as long as Petacchi was no better than fifth.
A break goes clear and scoops up the points at the intermediate sprints. Cavendish wins. That would mean he’d need Petacchi to be no better than seventh and Hushovd no better than third. Realistically it’s tricky to see five other riders beating Petacchi.
Tour de France 2010: Latest news
Could a fifth stage win in Paris be enough to give Cavendish green?
Contador makes small steps towards third Tour de France win
Sastre: “Cycling is turning into a sport for spoilt brats
Schleck behind after Tourmalet duel but refuses to give up
Hesjedal leaps up classification with Tour’s Tourmalet ride
Sky pushes ahead regardless of Wiggins placing
Armstrong has his last go in the Tour
Tour’s points leader Petacchi investigated for doping
Contador issues video apology to Schleck
Millar searches horizon for Eiffel Tower
Schleck-Contador friendship turns sour after chain problem
Wiggins at 2010 Tour: “I haven’t got it”
Basso wins Tour’s acceptance; podium spot next goal
Contador versus Schleck: A game of seconds
Can Cav win without Renshaw?
Hesjedal pushing his way to the Tour’s top
Renshaw disqualification overshadows Cavendish’s win
Charly Wegelius pulls out of Tour
Did Armstrong own a stake in Tailwind Sports, or not?
Cavendish in a ‘must win’ situation for Tour’s green jersey
Millar rides through pain barrier to make time cut
Roche alongside Tour’s top men ahead of Pyrenees
Wiggins to aim for Tour de France stage win?
Dan Lloyd battles on in Tour despite groin strain
Tour de France 2010: Stage reports
Stage 18: Cavendish wins fourth stage of Tour in Bordeaux
Stage 17: Schleck wins on the Tourmalet but cannot shake off Contador
Rest day review (July 21)
Stage 16: Fedrigo takes tough Pyrenean stage
Stage 15: Victorious Voeckler continues fine Franch Tour as Contador takes yellow jersey
Stage 14: Riblon hangs on in Pyrenees to give France fourth stage win
Stage 13: Vino returns to top of Tour after doping ban
Stage 12: Rodriguez wins as Contador attacks
Stage 11: Cavendish bags third stage win but lead out man kicked out of Tour
Stage 10: Cavendish bags third stage win but his lead-out man is kicked out of race
Stage 10: Paulinho claims narrow stage victory on Bastille day
Stage nine: Casar wins stage as Schleck and Contador go head-to-head
Stage seven: Chavanel wins stage and takes overall as Thomas drops out of Tour’s white
Stage six: Cavendish makes it two as Tour hots up
Stage five: Cavendish wins his first stage of Tour
Stage four: Petacchi wins into Reims
Stage three: Hushovd takes dramatic win; Thomas second on stage and GC
Stage three live coverage: As it happened
Stage two: Comeback man Chavanel takes victory in Spa
Stage one: Petacchi wins in Brussels as bunch left in tatters
Prologue: Cancellara pips Martin to win
Tour de France 2010: Photos
Stage 17 photo gallery
Stage 16 photo gallery
Stage 15 photo gallery
Stage 14 photo gallery
Stage 13 photo gallery
Stage 12 photo gallery
Stage 11 photo gallery
Stage 10 photo gallery
Stage nine photo gallery
Stage eight photo gallery
Tour 2010 wallpaper
Stage seven photo gallery
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one gallery
Prologue photo gallery
Tour de France 2010: Videos
Stage 17 video highlights
Stage 16 video highlights
Stage 15 video highlights
Stage 14 video highlights
Stage 13 video highlights
Stage 12 video highlights
Stage 11 video highlights
Stage 10 video highlights
Stage nine video highlights
Stage eight video highlights
Stage seven video highlights
Stage six video highlights
Stage five video highlights
Stage four video highlights
Stage three video highlights
Stage two video highlights
Stage one video highlights
Prologue video highlights
Tour de France 2010: Race guide
Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index
Official start list, with race numbers
Brits at the Tour 2010
Tout team guide
Tour jerseys: What they are and what they mean
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins
Tour de France 2010: Pictures
Tour team presentation, Rotterdam
Tour teams take to the cobbles: Photo special