The team supported Cavendish through the first three sprint days but without success. On stage four they took control in the final 60 kilometres for Cavendish, only from him to lose ground as he was blocking in by his lead-out man Mark Renshaw.
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“Cav looks really fit,” performance manager Rolf Aldag said. “Do I believe he can win a stage? Yeah, I believe Greipel can win a stage, Kittel and Cav too.
“They are different sprints here, uphill sprints for Gaviria and Sagan, but we will have flat days, stage seven and the day after, two sprint stages. 100%, we believe he has a chance to win.”
So far, Colombian Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) has won two sprint stages and Slovak world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) won the other available (as well as the uphill finish on stage five.
Only two more remain before a rest day and a transfer to the mountains to the south.
Cavendish races for a win, his 31st career Tour victory, but also against time. He crashed three times this spring and suffered broken ribs. While reaching fitness in various races and training camps, he was not able to spend much time with his sprint helpers and the Dimension Data train has often been derailed.
Watch: Tour de France stage six highlights
“We hope that he will get it right, timed better and get it on the line,” Aldag continued.
“It’s not just Mark, but the whole team. We had to make a choice in the lead up to the Tour, to get the riders in the best shape possible or strategically ready, so we let them do different schedules.
“With all the injuries and bad luck, we had too. It’s easier to get the tactics right at the Tour over the days, but if you don’t have the shape then you can never get it right.”
“We got together the other day [as a team], we ran out of space but it’s OK,” Cavendish said after sitting up in the sprint at the end of stage four.
“The stages haven’t been too tough, we haven’t hit the mountains yet. But it’s the Tour de France, it’s stressful. There are a couple more sprints coming up.”
Cavendish drifted off the back of the group a couple of times in stage five, finishing in a group alongside Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) and also rolling in nearly 15 minutes down on stage six. Part of that was a calculated approach to save energy in a undulating stage.
“To be fair, you don’t want to be out on your own. It’s smarter to be calculating with your energy than have an ego and try to say on,” he added.
Cavendish hopes the Tour is similar to other years, that he fires the winning shot after the first couple of stages. “I’m not particularly bad physically, so we’ll see what happens.”
Off to the side, he and the team will deal with his contract renewal. He wants to continue through to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and have a chance to race for Madison gold.
“Cav is a great asset to this team and the sport of cycling,” said team boss, Doug Ryder. “He’s done much for the team and Qhubeka charity, having him in the team, on the bus as mentor helps so much.
“Cav just had another child, we respect his will to come back and be the best he can be. When he’s ready, we will have that conversation. He’s got time and we are giving him time.”