x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Green jersey title defence 'not possible' for Mark Cavendish

Brit goes it alone to win the second stage, but Team Sky's focus is on helping Wiggins go for overall victory rather than on sprint finishes.

World Road Race Champion Mark Cavendish of Great Britain and Team Sky celebrates winning stage two. Bryn Lennon / Getty Images
World Road Race Champion Mark Cavendish of Great Britain and Team Sky celebrates winning stage two. Bryn Lennon / Getty Images

Mark Cavendish demonstrated that he is the man to fear again in the sprint finishes at the Tour de France as he came home first in the second stage.

Despite triumphing for the 21st time on the Tour, the Briton played down his chances of retaining the green jersey he won last year as he acknowledged that is not the main goal, with the impending London Olympics and Team Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins's challenge for the yellow jersey more of a priority.

"I had to leave it a little bit late but I should have gone earlier … I really had to lunge for the line," he told British Eurosport.

He said he is "not really chasing" the green jersey this year.

"I'll keep it in the back of my mind and go for every opportunity but I'm not going to put myself in the ground for it," he said.

"It's not possible to chase the green jersey alone so I'm just trying to get the stages and then see."

The victory means Cavendish is now sixth on all the time Tour winners list, and is one away from Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour winner.

As to his realistic aspirations for the Tour, Cavendish added: "I'll go for the intermediates but I'm not going to chase down breaks to go for it. It's about minimising points lost, really."

The 27-year-old rider from the Isle of Man operated primarily on his own in the finale and showed his supreme bike-handling ability on the 207.5-kilometre second stage from Vise to Tournai yesterday to win ahead of Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge).

Christophe Kern (Europcar), Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) and Anthony Roux (FDJ-Bigmat) formed the day's three-man break which had little chance of surviving to the end on a route made for the fast men of the peloton.

The intermediate sprint came 54.5km from the finish, with Kern, Roux and Morkov riding across without contesting the race for the line, leaving the first rider of the peloton chasing 13 points.

Cavendish was alone for Team Sky and crossed behind former HTC-Highroad teammates Goss and Mark Renshaw (Rabobank) to claim nine points.

The gap to the break was kept to under three minutes and Roux launched a solo attack as his two fellow escapees were swept up with around 25km to go on a straight run-in into Tournai.

With a full-speed peloton in pursuit, Roux was caught with just under 15km remaining.

The sprinters' teams lined up, while Evans's BMC Racing squad were also prominent at the front, with Wiggins staying out of trouble alongside.

Cavendish's sprint rival Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), though, was at the back of the peloton due to illness.

The tempo was high as the peloton negotiated a technical and tight conclusion, including two roundabouts and a narrowing section of road.

Lotto-Belisol moved to the front with 1.5km to go, but all the main protagonists were present as Cavendish tucked in behind Greipel.

With his teammates primarily assigned to support Wiggins, Cavendish, who had early support from Bernhard Eisel and Edvald Boasson Hagen, had to freestyle from wheel-to-wheel in the finale before timing his move to perfection, rounding Greipel with 200 metres to go and winning the dash for the line to add to his formidable total of stage wins.

Of keeping his nerve on the sprint finish, Cavendish said: "It was so hectic. If it had just been sprinters it would have been OK but every type of climber and GC (general classification) rider was at the finish.

"I knew it would be difficult, dangerous and hectic here but I came in without any pressure. It was just about being plucky about it.

"I knew the finish and knew there was a headwind, so I knew you could come from behind."

Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) retained the race leader's yellow jersey, with Wiggins second overall, still 10 seconds clear of the defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing). All three finished in the main bunch.

Today's third stage of the Tour runs from Orchies to Bolougne-Sur-Mer and will see the riders cover a distance of 197km.

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