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Cavendish puts team success first at Tour de France

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Associated Press
7/17/2012 2:35:37 PM
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PAU, France -- The prospect of having Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins win the Tour de France is helping Mark Cavendish overcome his own personal frustrations.

Regarded as the fastest man on a bike, the road world champion has not been as successful this year as in previous Tours, as he and his teammates are working to help Wiggins rather than secure stage wins for Cavendish.

Wiggins holds the yellow jersey and is bidding to become the first British rider to win the Tour.

Cavendish, meanwhile, has been left to watch cycling's new wonder - Peter Sagan - win three stages so far. The 22-year-old Slovak has a firm grip on the green jersey for best sprinter that Cavendish won last year.

"It's frustrating," Cavendish said during Tuesday's rest day at his team hotel. "(But) it does not mean I'm not happy with the situation we are in right now. We have the yellow jersey, the most iconic symbol in cycling."

Cavendish knew before the Tour that this year's race would not be set up for him to shine. He spent the first half of the season training specifically for the road race at the London Olympics, losing four kilograms (9 pounds) to be able to tackle the nine climbs of Box Hill in Surrey on July 28.

He won the Tour's second stage in Tournai, Belgium, and has since worked mainly for Wiggins, carrying water for him and even taking turns in the mountains as part of the Sky train.

"A team is like a machine, it's built and you need to find the most efficient way to win a bike race," Cavendish said. "In the past I was always the last person, the one who crossed the line."

"Now I'm just a bit more further up in the chain of events. Brad is the thing and at the end of the day we are doing our job and raising the profile of cycling in our country and making history," he said.

Sky manager Dave Brailsford said Cavendish would get more opportunities to win stages with a team dedicated to him but is confident the ace sprinter is not getting discouraged.

"He knew what the situation was coming into it," Brailsford said. "He's a very strong team player. I think he'll still get opportunities and we'll try to take those."

Cavendish has won 21 Tour de France stages and is just one short of Lance Armstrong and the race's top all-time sprinter, Andre Darrigade.

"I've actually beaten (Darrigade's) record in sprint wins," Cavendish said. "He only won 15 sprints, but he has won 22 Tour stages. That would be great to do that in Paris."

Cavendish won the final Tour stage on Paris' Champs-Elysees over the past three years. With no hopes of retaining his green jersey, his remaining goal will be to make it four in a row.

"It would be nice to get 22 in Paris and to finish that off at the Tour with the yellow jersey," Cavendish said.

Wiggins has been full of praise for Cavendish's work so far. The two riders are said to be good friends and often refer to each other as brothers.

Wiggins, who is expected to commit himself to Cavendish during the Olympic road race, said the whole Sky team will try to repay Cavendish for his efforts.

"Mark's unbeaten in Paris the last few years, so we'll commit 100 per cent," Wiggins said. "The (general classification) is normally finished in Paris. That's always been on the cards that we'll finish off the job there."

Mark Cavendish (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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