By Sophie Smith
Mark Cavendish will be more competitive than ever in harder sprint stages of the Tour de France this season.
The 27-year-old admits a green jersey defence is not a priority in July, which will also include a gold medal assault at the London Olympic Games road race.
"With the new green jersey competition, stage
wins isn't enough to win it, you have to go for them intermediates but whether
you go to limit your losses or to win them flat out that's the tactic you've
got to look for," Cavendish told journalists in London today.
"I haven't got my eyes on green to be honest."
Cavendish has made significant changes to his training regime in lieu of the Olympics, which will require the Briton to be climbing well enough to clear nine laps of Box Hill before a run of some 40km to the finish line on The Mall.
The effects of that training should also allow the world champion to this year be in the mix of Tour stages he wouldn't normally contest.
"It makes my opportunities for winning a lot more. Instead of having the usual seven sprints days in the Tour de France I've got a couple more to go for," he said.
Cavendish has a Grand Tour in his legs already having completed the Giro d'Italia where he won three stages and finished second in the points classification - one point behind Katusha's Joaquin Rodriguez. He took overall honours at Ster ZLM Toer this month, without claiming a stage, and embarked on a stint of "repetitive climbing" in Italy recently.
"The form is really good, better than it has been for years coming into the Tour," he said.
Cavendish attributes his improved shape to his alternative training that has included a bigger focus on scientific methods. He has, since the beginning of the season, paid more attention to numbers working under the tutelage of Sky race coach Rod Ellingworth and performance analyst Tim Kerrison.
"I haven't been a big fan of the scientific approach in the past, you know, I didn't use to look at numbers and graphs," Cavendish said. "I've come to realise that it was never really the methods that I didn't like it was just how they were put to me. They've been put to me a in a way I understand and not just some scientist who has never ridden a bike and thinks he knows more than me.
"It gives you a way to see results, you can see what's happening, you can see a trend and once you buy into that it's incredible how you can structure your training."
The 20-time Tour stage winner has ambitions to sprint for a fourth consecutive victory on the Champs-Élysées whilst also doing his bit to support Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins in his yellow jersey bid.
The Olympic Games road race is six day after the Tour finishes. Cavendish says there's always a risk of going into the red but seems confident he can manage his form throughout cycling's biggest spectacle without risking his London campaign.
"I think for sure skipping the Tour de France you can monitor every single thing you do and you can control everything you do and build up to it," he said. "But for me the Tour de France is really everything in my sport, it's what I love to do. I can be part of a team that's going to go and win the yellow jersey this year, hopefully, and that's a big thing.
"With the Olympics being so close after the Tour it's about working and not letting the Tour kind of knock you down. I've come out on my hands and knees in the past but if I can make my form and fitness better going into it, and not build throughout it, then I should come out the other side pretty well."
Whilst Sky has built a team predominately around Wiggins, Cavendish will have some form of lead-out in crossover riders and former Highroad colleagues including Bernhard Eisel, Michael Rogers, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Kanstantsin Siutsou for the flat stages.
The rouleur Boasson Hagen may also get his own chance to hunt out victories on harder days Cavendish may not be up for.
The Tour begins on Saturday with a prologue in Liege, Belgium.
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