Mark Cavendish insists Team Sky will be able to balance both his green jersey defence and Bradley Wiggins’ general classification bid at next year’s Tour de France.
Cavendish claimed 20 Tour de France stages in four years at HTC-Highroad, where he enjoyed the support of every rider in his team, but Sky’s resources are likely to be split between the world champion and GC riders Wiggins and Chris Froome.
But after the 2012 route was revealed in Paris, Cavendish says he would not have joined Team Sky if he believed they didn’t have the firepower to fight on two fronts.
“I’ve joined Sky because I think they can perform well,” said Cavendish. “Brad’s at Sky because he thinks they can perform well. Sky have ambition, so what’s the problem? Teams have done it before.”
“It’s a challenge for a lot of teams and teams have done it in the past. We’ve got the horsepower to do it, so we’re going to try and get green and yellow.
“I think there’s something for everyone next year. I think you’ll see a lot of different stage winners, but hopefully not on the sprint days. It’s a very diverse route. There are seven sprint days, as normal. 92 time trial kilometres which is good for the time triallists and a good mix of small and high mountains.”
Next year’s route features just three summit finishes and, combined with a prologue and two time trials, Cavendish believes it is primed for Wiggins.
“It really is,” he said. “There are 92 kilometres of time trialling over three weeks, but there are some steep climbs. He’ll have to be on super, super form, which he will be at the Tour de France.”
While the route looks to favour riders who can both climb and time trial, Tour race director Christian Prudhomme was quick to point out that the introduction of several new, steep climbs would give others the opportunity to attack and gain time.
Three-time champion Alberto Contador is a rider who thrives both in time trials and on steep climbs but the Spaniard insists defending champion Cadel Evans remains favourite.
“It will be a race in which you have to attack, which is not a bad thing. It will all be decided in the mountains,” said Contador.
“This is a course that favours last year’s winner, Cadel Evans. I like the route, but of course it is not the best for me, maybe it is better for Cadel Evans, it is more for the riders that go very strong in the time trials and for me maybe I need to attack before the time trials.”
Contador is an accomplished time triallist himself, however, and beat Evans into second in 2007 to claim his win on a course that featured nearly 120km against the clock.
Contador’s boss at SaxoBank Sungard, Bjarne Riis, said: “I’m happy with the route and the time trials. There’s a nice start but it will be very exciting. Every Tour is different though and it’s the riders that really make it.
“Contador is definitely one of the favourites. He’s won the Tour de France three times. Cadel Evans is the last winner, so he might be the biggest favourite.”
One rider whose odds would have risen after Tuesday’s route announcement is Andy Schleck, who led the 2011 race going into the penultimate stage – a time trial – but handed the yellow jersey to Evans.
In fact, next year’s route travels over more mountain passes than the previous edition, and Schleck is well aware that he will have to gain significant time on the climbs if he is to win his first Tour.
“There’s still 25 mountain passes to negotiate, and there were 23 this year,” said Schleck. “Ideally I would like to see another mountain top finish and one less time trial but I have to take things as they are and keep on working on my time trial.
The three-time runner-up added: “Riders and fans don’t like it when the races turn into waiting games. Next year if you wait, you will lose. We have to be on the offensive from the first stage.”
As for Evans; having been labeled the favourite by both Contador and Riis, the Australian admitted the course was one that could see him win a second title: “I think so, you need a good team there for the GC, but we have that. I think the second half is favourable towards me.”