Wearing yellow is the goal for Cavendish
THE forecast for the weather over the road to Utah Beach, the end point of today’s first stage of the 103rd Tour de France, is clear, breezy and – if Team Dimension Data have their way – “hot”.
As they ready themselves for their second Tour, the South African team are no longer the underdogs. Much is expected of them, and that has upped the ante. The first week will be their marker, said team principal Doug Ryder.
“We are going in as hot as possible. Most people go into the Tour a little bit under and look to build form as the Tour goes on,” Ryder said. “We are going in to the race like it only exists for a week.
“We are going there to achieve all of our objectives in the first few days, if possible. We’ve had less time to prepare for the Tour than we did last year. We focused on just this race, but this year we have been running a triple programme. Our riders have raced more, but they are hungry.”
Today, Dimension Data will aim to get Mark Cavendish to Utah Beach first. A win will give him a 27th Tour de France stage victory and, most importantly, the iconic yellow leader’s jersey.
Should he take yellow, he will have worn the leader’s jersey in all three Grand Tours. Cavendish has had a very different build-up this year as he looks ahead to Rio 2016.
“I’ve had a track build-up and used racing to build my endurance,” he said. “I really don’t know how it’s going to be. It could be the best thing I’ve ever done; it could be the worst.
“I’ve definitely made every second of every day count. I’m not coming to the Tour to just d*** about. I’m here to represent team Dimension Data.
“(Wearing the yellow jersey) is just something I haven’t done,” Cavendish added. “It’s a stage win, how else would you look at it?”
Last week, though, he was more direct. “I’ve never said I’m confident of doing it. I’ve said I’d like to do it, but I’d like to win up Mont Ventoux and that’s less likely,” Cavendish said. “I’ll go into the opening stage of the Tour de France with the goal of winning.
“Whether it’s as easy as other years is debatable, but the team and I will definitely go in with the goal of getting the yellow jersey after stage one.”
While Dimension Data will work for Cavendish on the flat 188km first stage, they will focus on Edvald Boasson Hagen for tomorrow’s second stage, which has a tougher finish, with a 14% incline with 200m to go on a narrow road.
“Everyone is going to get an opportunity to do something in the Tour de France this year,” said Ryder. “We are going for stage wins. We focus on certain stages for certain individuals.
“Stage one, for instance, is 100 percent for Cav. Stage two is 100 percent for Edvald. The green jersey is at the back of our minds, but stage wins are the priority for us. You need consistency to wear the green jersey, which Edvald has in abundance. We think he could be up there, but it will be tough.
“(Edvald) is going to be a core part of the train for Cav in the fast, flat stages. In the lumpy and mid- mountain stages, he could potentially go for stage wins. He rode so well in the Dauphine ( the eight stage, pre-Tour race).
“At one stage, when he was fighting to keep the green jersey, he was with the climbers and got dropped just before the end.”