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Mark Cavendish, left, and compatriot Bradley Wiggins are the main hopes for Sky Team.
Mark Cavendish, left, and compatriot Bradley Wiggins are the main hopes for Sky Team.

Cavendish happy to play supporting role to Wiggins

The world road champion is low on his Tour de France chances and will focus on Olympics.

World champion Mark Cavendish is excited at the prospect of playing his part in Bradley Wiggins's bid to become the first British winner of the Tour de France.

Cavendish's main aim for 2012 is the Olympic road race on July 28, six days after the Tour finishes in Paris, where his Team Sky colleague Wiggins hopes to stand victorious as the first British winner of the yellow jersey.

It is Cavendish's intention to also reach the French capital, where he has won on the Champs Elysees in each of the past three years, but more as conditioning for London 2012, and he is happy to play second fiddle as Wiggins starts the Tour in Liege on Saturday as favourite with ambitions of victory.

"I probably won't win as much personally, in stages, but to be part of a team that holds real ambitions of winning the Tour de France overall, it's an honour for any bike rider," Cavendish said.

"In Bradley we've got the biggest chance we'll ever have as a nation, with a British team and with a British rider. It's exciting to go in and follow that ambition.

"I always knew Bradley had an opportunity of doing well at the Tour de France and a big aim was to win the Tour de France for Sky.

"Now it's an aim of winning the yellow jersey and green jersey in the next years. What a position to be in."

Cavendish won the points classification's green jersey for the first time in 2011, but with the accumulation of points at the intermediate sprints imperative in that quest, he admits a successful defence of the maillot vert is unlikely.

"Stage wins isn't enough to win it," he said.

"You have go for the intermediates. Whether you're going to limit your losses or win them flat out, that's the tactic you've got to go for.

"I haven't got my eyes on green, to be honest, but there's always a chance."

In other news, the Belgian rider Stijn Vandenbergh has been forced to withdraw from the Tour de France because of a saddle sore, with Slovakia's Martin Velits taking his place, his Omega Pharma team announced yesterday.

"I've had this problem for the past ten days, it was nearly better but got worse during the Belgian championships on Sunday. Together with the medical team we decided not to take any risks," said Vandenbergh.

Velits, 27, joins his twin brother Peter in the Belgian team, where he will compete in his first Tour de France.

The Slovak time-trial champion last year, he finished second in the event this year behind his brother.

Sylvain Chavanel, a winner of two stages on the Tour in 2010, is one of France's best hopes in this year's race, while Belgian star Tom Boonen has decided not to take part as he focuses on preparing for the London Olympics.

Elsewhere, the Italian cyclist Riccardo Ricco is to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in a bid to have his 12-year doping ban overturned, the CAS have announced.

Having already served a 20-month ban for doping during the 2008 Tour de France, during which he was found to have taken the banned blood-booster Cera, Ricco almost died in February last year after suffering kidney problems having apparently attempted to give himself a blood transfusion.

The Italian National Anti-doping Tribunal handed the 28-year-old a 12-year ban in April, ruling him out of a return to competition until January 2024 and essentially ending his career as a result.

"The rider requests the annulment of the challenged decision and accordingly the cancellation of the suspension," read a CAS statement.

* Press Association

The top contenders, s2

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