Mark Cavendish has won 13 times this year, but has to prove that he is still the best, said Etixx-QuickStep team boss Patrick Lefevere. The Tour de France, where Cavendish missed his second chance for a sprint victory today in Amiens, is the ultimate place to show himself.
Cavendish sprinted head-to-head against Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) today, but he faded to third as André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) zipped by for first and second.
It was the second time that Cavendish lost to Greipel in this Tour de France with few sprint opportunities. Complicating matters, Cavendish and his agent are negotiating for 2016 with Lefevere and other teams.
"He has to prove that he's still the fastest sprinter on earth," Lefevere told Cycling Weekly.
He added that a big win is needed. "The Tour has so much publicity, he needs to win here, of course. Let's not be silly, he has to win here. First for himself, but for the team, as well."
After crashing and abandoning the 2014 Tour on day one, Cavendish rebounded well. This 2015 season has been one of his most successful in the win column even if it lacks big wins in WorldTour races.
Cavendish won stages and the overall in the Dubai Tour, the Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and four times in the Tour of California.
"Impressed? No because I know Mark. I know his character, he's a winner. In the Tour de Suisse, he was a little bit under the expectations, but I saw some of the British championships on TV, and there he was quite amazing.
"I'm not impressed, he's a winner. He has 13 wins, there were many races that weren't WorldTour, but winning is winning.
"The most important thing is to win the first [in the Tour], if you win the first, the second becomes easier because after one week, if you don't win, the stress comes and you start to make little mistakes and you have to avoid this."
This week ends with only one more chance for Cavendish. He explained that tomorrow's stage to Le Havre is too hard for the pure sprinters, but that he has a chance on Friday in Fougères. With stage 15 to Valence likely being a day for an escape instead of a sprint, the final day in Paris could be his last chance in the 2015 Tour.
His planner also includes time to negotiate a new contract. Lefevere is at the Tour for 10 days. Cavendish could re-sign with the Belgian team he joined in 2013 after leaving Sky or find a new team for 2016.
"It's a matter of price, and it's a matter of everything. Money is not everything, though," added Lefevere.
"We're very happy and every year he was with us, the relationship with the team has increased, he felt more and more conformable in the team, he became more and more relaxed.
"He's a star, he's still a star, look to Twitter, where he has more than 900,000 followers. That says a lot."
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