Mark Cavendish's bid to become the first Briton to win the Tour's green jersey took an unexpected boost in the last week when first Tom Boonen and then Heinrich Haussler pulled out of the Tour.
The points competition would now appear to be between three riders: Cavendish, Thor Hushovd and Tyler Farrar. Hushovd won the Norwegian national championships last weekend, in his comeback from a broken collarbone, while American Farrar has targeted green this year and has the full support of his Garmin-Transitions team.
If Farrar wants to challenge for the points competition his team mates will have to take on some of the work that HTC Columbia shouldered last year. Speaking last week, Cavendish insisted that other teams will have to help bring back breaks and set up sprint finishes on the flat stages.
"It can't be left to us. There were a few sprint opportunities that were lost last year because other teams didn't contribute," he said. "I think [other sprinters] have got much more confidence in their teams' ability that they will do it."
"It'll be a welcome relief for a couple of guys in our team."
HTC's structure is different to last year when all nine men were focused on the sprints. Both Michael Rogers and Tony Martin have one eye on the overall classification and will be spared some of the work on the sprint stages, hence the need for the help of other teams.
"We're lucky that we've got a diverse team. Fundamentally it's going to be me last man, Mark Renshaw ahead of me, Bernie Eisel ahead of him, then we've got a few scenarios of guys who can fit in," said Cavendish. "[Bert] Grabsch and Maxime [Monfort], but maybe we just need one to ride, or maybe we need three to ride."
"Then you've got Michael and Tony, but we don't want to use their energy if they're going to go for the GC. But they're an essential part of it, they'll commit to the team. They'll ride if they need to ride."
Two broken ribs for Garmin-Transitions' Christian Vande Velde, sustained at the Tour de Suisse, means the American team is likely to back Farrar in his bid for green rather than push for a top ten finish. Hushovd may have slightly less support from his Cervelo team mates as they have one eye on Carlos Sastre's bid for the overall.
A full interview with Mark Cavendish appears in this week's Cycling Weekly Tour Guide. Available from WHSmiths and all good newsagents priced £3.99.
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