Mark Cavendish's chances of winning the Tour de France's green jersey are good, according to HTC-Highroad's Valerio Piva. He stopped his rivals from gaining valuable points today and faces only five more days until the finish in Paris.
"The chance is good he can keep the jersey to Paris," HTC's sports director, Piva told Cycling Weekly. "The next days are for climbers and the sprints are before the climbs, so Mark can get the points. And Paris is, of course, for Mark."
Cavendish would become the first Brit to win the points classification jersey. It was first introduced in 1953, when it was won by Swiss Fritz Schär.
The 26-year-old Manx sprinter and his direct rivals failed to gain points at the intermediate sprint along the way to Gap today. Thor Hushovd took maximum points, 30, at the finish in Gap, but he's far down in the classification.
After 16 stages, Cavendish has 319 points and leads by 34 points over Spaniard José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar). Belgian Philippe Gilbert (OmegaPharma-Lotto) trails by 69 points and sits third overall.
Piva told Cycling Weekly that the team is worried Cavendish may fail to make the time cut on the stage to Alpe d'Huez on Friday. The organiser establishes the time limits based on a percentage of the winner's time and the average speed. The time limit is greater for the stage to Alpe d'Huez because its a "very difficult short" stage, according to the rule book.
"I think," said Piva, "that's the highest risk."
It's a short stage, 109.5 kilometres, but features two climbs immediately, the Télégraphe and the harder side of Galibier.
"He will lose time on the uphill, of course, but we can make it up on the downhill. He'll work with Bernie Eisel and the others," added Piva. "The strategy is to ride tempo on the uphill and go fast on the downhill."
"I'm just going to have to suffer the next three days," said Cavendish, "and try and save some energy."
Cavendish will gain 45 points towards the green jersey if he wins the sprint for a third consecutive year in Paris.
As with the Giro d'Italia's Mount Etna stage, Cavendish's rivals accused him of holding onto the team car during the stage to Plateau de Beille. Cavendish re-joined the main 'gruppetto' ahead of the final climb that day, but Piva said it was due to the work of Eisel, Lars Back and Danny Pate.
"We are calm because the judge was there the entire time on the motorbike. I don't know why they make these accusations, maybe it's a tactic to create stress."
Cavendish and HTC will have another chance to prove the doubters wrong tomorrow. The stage to Pinerolo, Italy, covers five categorised climbs.
Points classification after stage 16
1. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Highroad 319 points
2. Jose Rojas (Spa) Movistar 285 points
3. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 250 points
4. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Garmin-Cervelo 235 points
5. Andre Greipel (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto 170 points
Tour de France 2011: Related links
Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
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