Cavendish wants green before gold

Mark Cavendish says the Tour de France will take priority over the Olympics, but that doesn't mean he's not out to impress in both next season.


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2011 Giro del Piemonte
Cavendish at the Giro del Piemonte

Mark Cavendish says the Tour de France will take priority over the Olympics, but that doesn’t mean he’s not out to impress in both next season.

Cavendish told VeloNews that finishing the Tour is the top priority despite having the once-in-a-lifetime chance to aim for gold on home roads next summer in London.

“I am going to Paris,” Cavendish said. “There’s no way I would leave the Tour early for the Olympics.”

Cavendish, who will be racing in Sky colors next season, said the top goal in 2012 is to win another green jersey, which he claimed this year for the first time after close calls in the previous two Tours. The Olympics would be a bonus after that.

“I want to win another green jersey,” he continued, speaking of the Tour-Olympics double. “It would be a long four weeks, but I think it’s possible. I will need to stay fresh for another week.”

Like most pros, the prestige of the Tour outweighs the one-off chance at an Olympic gold medal, even if it’s on home roads for Cavendish and the other UK riders next summer.

That sentiment was echoed by Bradley Wiggins, Cavendish’s new teammate at Sky, who also said that the Tour will take precedent over the Olympics. In fact, Wiggins still hasn’t made up his mind if he’ll get back on the track to help defend the team pursuit Olympic crown.

Wiggins has suggested that his best chance for Olympic medals will come in the time trial event on the road, not necessarily on the track. A silver medal in the Copenhagen world time trial championships earlier this month only reconfirms Wiggins’ thoughts on the matter.

Geraint Thomas, another Team Sky rider, suggested that he would be skipping the Tour to focus solely on the 2012 London Olympic Games.

That attitude is certainly the minority among the pros, who believe that success in the Tour de France is more important than the one-day Olympic race that happens once every four years.

Of course, the gold medalist might beg to differ. Samuel Sánchez of Spain said that winning the gold medal in Beijing was one of the highlights of his career, but just about anyone in the race, the Olympics is more about the experience than the importance of the individual result.

The Olympics road race will be a very different kind of race than the world championships, when national teams line up instead of professional trade teams

The UCI revealed its preliminary list Tuesday of how many allotments each nation will have during the Olympics. The UK will be riding with five riders compared to the eight that it had during the Copenhagen worlds that Cavendish won.

With less riders, it will prove much difficult for one team to control the race. That’s especially critical for a sprinter like Cavendish.

“The Olympics won’t be like the worlds, because we’ll only have five-man teams,” he said. “There’s no guarantee it will be a sprint.”

Changes in the Olympic road course make for a tougher circuit. Organizers have added nine circuits over Box Hill — a short, but sharp climb — over twisting narrow roads that could produce a major split in the bunch. Cavendish won a test event in August, but that only included two passages over the Box Hill climb.

It makes sense that Cavendish will put more emphasis on the Tour simply because he will have more chances for success. After winning 20 stages in the past editions of the Tour and his first green jersey in 2011, the Manxster knows where he earns his money.

“There should be plenty of chances to win stages (in next year’s Tour),” Cavendish said. “I don’t want to put a number on how many (stages). I want to win as many as I can.”

Concerning next season, he’s already suggested that he will ease into the early part of the season, with a planned peak of fitness centered on the Tour and the Olympics.

He also said he’s confident that his interests and those of GC captain Wiggins will blend together well.

“There’s no need to split the power base,” he said. “If we work together well, the team will be stronger because of it. It should be fine. We haven’t talked a lot about it yet.”

As Cavendish enjoys his off-season now, he says he’s looking forward to showing off the rainbow jersey next season.

“It will mean a lot to wear the rainbow in every bike race that I do,” he said. “I am going be proud to be wearing the rainbow jersey, in the Tour and in any race.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.