Mark Cavendish focused on reaching Paris despite Olympics looming

The Dimension Data sprinter says he'll be looking to contest the final Tour de France sprint in Paris, but says he can't afford to get sick after the race like last year

(Image credit: Watson)

Mark Cavendish says that he is focused on racing the Tour de France until the final day in Paris even with the Olympics looming six days after the race finishes.

The Manxman and his Dimension Data team met with the press today, two days before the race kicks off in Mont-Saint-Michel. He says that the 2016 Tour route features five to six possibilities for a sprint finish and he wants his chance to win.

>>> Tour de France 2016: Key info, route, contenders

"I'm not coming to the Tour de France planning to stop," Cavendish explained. "This is my 10th Tour de France start, every time I stopped, it's been for different circumstances, so you never know the circumstances to it."

Cavendish acknowledged that riding the whole Tour can take it's toll in the weeks following the race, which he said he can't allow to happen and impact on his Olympics.

"The thing is I was in bed for a week after the Tour de France last year," he said. "I got sick. I know I can't afford to do that this year.

"Definitely, though, the biggest stage in the world is the Champs-Élysées for a sprinter. I know that my eight teammates are going to do the best to get to Paris and I'm going to try to do my best to get to Paris."

Mark Cavendish placed sixth in the opening roud of the men's omnium: the scratch race. He went on to place 13th in the individual pursuit, and second in the elimination race to end the day sixth overall at the half-way point.

Mark Cavendish placed sixth in the opening roud of the men's omnium: the scratch race.
(Image credit: Andy Jones)

Cavendish won selection last week to race the Omnium for Great Britain in Rio de Janeiro only a few weeks after the Tour finishes. Former cycling technical director, Shane Sutton said that riding all the way to Paris would not be ideal for the Olympics.

He spent all season tuning his body to be ready for his goals in the Tour and in the Olympics, however. Cavendish has popped in and out of select road and track events, including World Cups and the World Championships.

"It's been completely different. I've had a pretty track [focused] build-up, I used a lot of racing to build my endurance," he added.

"I really don't know how it will be. It could be the best thing I've done, it could be the worst thing I've done!

"I definitely made every single minute of every day count this year. I'm not coming to the Tour just to dick about, I'm coming here to represent Dimension Data and to raise awareness for Qhubeka, and get some success for my teammates."

Cavendish explained to that there are "a fair few, about five or six stages that will realistically end in a full bunch sprint." The race, though, has evolved since he first started winning in 2008.

"In 2008, there was 18 category climbs. Last year, it was that number in the last week. It's been increasing since 2008, every year more and more. It cuts down the pure bunch sprints,” said Cavendish.

Watch: Tour de France 2016 preview - The sprinters

"There are also a lot more GC contenders than ever. That makes it harder, they are there in the sprints. You saw that in the [Critérium du] Dauphiné, Chris Froome in the sprint boxing it around.

"They have to mix it in the first days. It's not often I tangle with Simon Gerrans in the first day, but he has to be up there on that day to try to get the yellow jersey later.

"Those GC guys and our lead-out guys are coming back at us in the last three kilometres as we move up. It adds up to be half the peloton you are negotiating around in the final kilometres just to be able to sprint."

Cavendish is the Tour's most successful sprinter in history, with 26 stage wins, including one from last year's race.

If he can win on Saturday, he will wear the yellow jersey for the first time in his career. In the last two opportunities he had in Corsica in 2013 and Harrogate in 2014, crashes spoiled his chance to wear the Tour's prestigious leader's jersey.

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.