Could a fifth stage win in Paris be enough to give Cavendish green?

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.

1. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre 213pts
2. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervélo 203pts
3. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia 197pts

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.

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.

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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