Mark Cavendish is not worried about his lack of experience on the cobblestones as his as the start of the Tour de France draws closer
The Tour takes off on 5 July with a 190 kilometre stage from Leeds to Harrogate and several of the 22 teams competing are methodically preparing for the depart by scouting certain stages.
One of the stages that could prove challenging is the 156 kilometre long stage 5 from Ypres to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, which sees the return of cobbled sections to the Tour.
Judging from the previewing and studying of the stage by riders such as favourite Chris Froome (Team Sky), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff – Saxo) the riders are both excited and anxious about what is to come on the cobblestones.
Cobbled sections are normally associated with spring one-day classics such as Parix-Roubaix but as they return to the Tour, the lack of experience might count against some riders.
Cavendish, the British national champion, was out with eight of his Omega Pharma – QuickStep teammate who reconned the nine sections of pave featured on stage 5.
The sprinter is not accustomed to riding the classics as OPQS possess one of the strongest one-day teams in the field. Cavendish, however, is excited to join his team on the rough patches and seemed relaxed about the upcoming challenge.
"I've only ridden one Paris-Roubaix, I'd love to do it again," Cavendish said, according to cyclingnews. "But, we're the strongest cobbled classics team in the world and we can win every one.
“For me to just want to ride, just for an indulgence when there are stronger guys to do the job, it's better to watch my team smashing it while I'm at home. But I'm excited the cobbles are in the Tour again. We've got a strong team for it, and I'm excited for the race.
"For me I like expectation from the team. We're the most powerful team in the world across all races. To go in it, with the expectation to perform. It's a good pressure to have. For sure we're going to have a strong team at the Tour de France and for sure, this is one of the key stages we'd like to do well in."
Stage 5 is a 101 kilometres shorter that this spring's Parix Roubaix and will by no means be a repeat of the “the hell of the north” but Cavendish believes it will be a hard day in the saddle for him and the general classification hopefuls.
"The stage is how I expected," Cavendish said "It's nowhere near as tough as Paris-Roubaix, but in the first week of the Tour after the hard start in the UK, it won't shake up the GC.
Brian Holm, the team's Danish sports director, believes resting the superstar sprinter this season will pay off in the Tour de France.
The 29-year-old made his mark at the Tour of California in which he won two stages after a largely anonymous spring period where he was rested after finishing fifth at Milan-San Remo.
Last season Cavendish accumulated 96 race days – his busiest season as a professional – and he has said the busy schedule showed at last summer's Tour.
“That was basically my idea the whole year because last year he did a lot,” Holm told Cycling Weekly. “He did a load of races last year and I always felt a bit guilty about it. He was new in the team and won from February to the Tour of Britain so he was busy the whole year and I was worrying. I thought maybe a little bit less this year, a little bit more training.”
The Giro d'Italia's points jersey – which he won - was Cavendish's ambition last season and riding in two grand tours ultimately took its toll. This season, the Manxman opted for sunny California instead.
“Normally if it was up to me I would have pulled him out after two weeks but he really wanted to win that sprinter jersey,” Holm recalled of the 2013 Giro.
“Nobody knows that, maybe it’s bollocks to say, but let’s say it cost him a stage win at the Tour de France, or Paris, because he was too tired, he would still have done it because it was important for him to win the points jersey in all three Grand Tours.”
Cavendish has raced much with pilot Mark Renshaw and Alessandro Petacchi this season and the OPQS lead-out train seems to be taking shape nicely ahead of the Tour, where the Manxman will hope to claim the yellow jersey on British soil.
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