Mark Cavendish wants to claim the first yellow jersey of the Tour de France Saturday but is hopeful he and his Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammates can share it for a part of the first week.
Last year the maillot jaune swapped shoulders only once between prologue winner Fabian Cancellara and eventual champion Bradley Wiggins. The course for the 100th edition is less conducive to such a scenario – both for sprinters looking to take first blood at the flat Grand Depart in Corsica this weekend as well as the genuine general classification contenders.
How long the first stage winner can hold onto the maillot jaune remains to be seen. The second stage features four categorised climbs but also a descent to a long and relatively flat finish that may favour a sprint (see What can Cav do in Corsica?). Day three on the other hand is undulating from start to end and will offer much less reprieve.
“A pure sprinter, maybe one day, maybe lose it on the second stage,” Cavendish said when asked how long a sprinter could hold yellow for.
“I think it’s possible we could see a reduced field on the second day but still a bunch of sprinters there. It’s possible the yellow jersey could win the second day. The third day definitely suits a punchier style rider. If [Peter] Sagan wins the sprint for sure he can hang on to it until the team time-trial after the third day, but he’s not a sprinter, he’s a different type of rider.
“We might see in every stage for the first week the yellow jersey change shoulders,” he continued.
“We have a strong team that might be able to share that between us. We hope for that.”
The stage four team time-trial in Nice may present such an opportunity. Dual individual time-trial world champion Tony Martin as well as Cavendish’s chief lead-out man Gert Steegmans reviewed it, and the three stages in Corsica, earlier this month with sports director Wilfried Peeters.
“We saw the course from the car … Gert is laughing because he was driving,” Martin quipped of the 25km run at a team press conference aboard the Mega Smeralda ferry in Porto-Vecchio today.
“I was pretty happy about it. I think we showed last year that we are the strongest team in the team time-trial, and the course really suits us. It’s not too technical, we can play to our strengths and I think we are one of the favourites. We still have the chance there to go for yellow.”
Cavendish’s immediate attention is on the yellow jersey but overall the Manxman is targeting stage wins and the points classification that Slovak prodigy Sagan (Cannondale) is set to defend.
On paper there are seven flat stages but the former world champion Cavendish believes there may be more opportunities for bunch gallops given the number of sprinters and sprint teams here.
Cavendish would not go as far to say the course for the 100th edition of the race suits him more so than Sagan in the pursuit for green. Sagan is handy in a bunch sprint and can take points in stages perhaps too difficult for Cavendish. However, the odds are not stacked against the latter either.
The 28-year-old Cavendish is hopeful stage wins, of which his current career haul is 23, will counteract Sagan’s versatility.
“I think it’s quite similar to how the Giro used to be in the past – either flat days or really, really hard days,” he said. “It’s going to be a difficult Tour to finish, but it’s more open to stage wins and it’s more helpful for the green jersey in my opinion.”
Sagan, four-time Tour stage winner Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol), Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) as well as the 22-year-old Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ), Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) will be amongst some of those vying for line hours Saturday.