Wear­ing yel­low is the goal for Cavendish

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - KEVIN MCCAL­LUM

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.”

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