Mark Cavendish has vowed to ride all the way to Paris in this year’s Tour De France, finishing cycling’s hardest race just six days before the Olympic Games.
And the Manx Missile has repeated his desire for David Millar’s inclusion in Great Britain’s squad for the opening event of London 2012 in advance of next week’s final ruling on a British Olympic Association law prohibiting the selection of athletes who have served doping bans.
Cavendish said he would “never be able to explain” the sudden loss of form that caused him to abandon this year’s Milan San Remo and insisted he is a stronger rider than he was in 2009.
Asked if he would pursue his ambition of wining a second Tour De France green jersey this year as well as riding for gold in the Olympic road race, Cavendish replied: “I still want to win them both.”
“Unless I get eliminated, I’ll finish the Tour De France. I’m not pulling out of the Tour De France for the Olympic Games. But I want to do well in both.”
He conceded that recovering from the hardest of cycling’s Grand Tours in less than a week would be hard, adding that every hour would have to count in his recovery. “But its not like I’m coming in from a different sport,” he added. “Probably all the favourites for the Olympics will be riding the Tour De France. It’s not like I’m in a different boat to anyone else.”
David Millar will learn next week if he is eligible for selection for Great Britain’s Olympic squad when the Court of Arbitration for Sport decides if the British Olympic Association’s policy of not selecting athletes who have served doping bans complies with the code of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
The Scot has previously stated that he would not reprise his role at last year’s world championships, while British Cycling’s performance director, Dave Brailsford, has said he will select the fastest riders eligible to compete.
Today, Cavendish said: “I would love Dave to be on the start line. Dave Millar captained our team to the world championships win last year in Copenhagen and I’d love him to be riding the Olympic Games with us.
“He’s a loyal teammate, and he’s very, very good physically. He’s got great experience and would make a massive difference to our team.
Cavendish agreed that Millar’s experience would be made more valuable by the smaller five-man squads admitted to the Olympic road race. His victory at last year’s world road race championships was supported by seven teammates.
“There’s no radios allowed in the Olympic Games. It’s harder when you’re in a bike race than watching on TV. You have to be able to read a race and know what’s going on, and that’s where experience comes in,” he said.
Cavendish’s 2012 campaign with his new Team Sky teammates began well with two stage victories at the Tour of Qatar in February and a win at the Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne semi-classic.
But he failed in his bid to repeat his 2009 triumph at Milan-San Remo, the first of the cycling calendar’s five ‘Monuments’, after being dropped on the climb of La Manie. Cavendish insisted he had been in the best form of his life before the race but had failed to deliver for reasons he said he would never be able to explain.
“There’s something that is inexplainable (sic). It wasn’t that I was last of the favourites – I was the last rider over La Manie, but I can’t explain why that happened. It shows we’re not machines. These things can happen,” he said.
He had dwelled on the defeat for the following three days, he admitted, even instructing his team not to ride for him at Dwars Door Vlaanderen, a race in which he said he had rediscovered his form before falling on a discarded water bottle.
He dismissed concerns over Team Sky’s intention to contest the Tour De France general classification with Bradley Wiggins alongside his own stage and green jersey ambitions, and said the absence of his former HTC-Highroad squad would encourage other teams to do share the burden of pace making, reducing the workload for his new teammates.
“There are more teams now that are probably going to ride. It’s not going to be like last year where it’s like, ‘We’ll leave it to HTC because they’re going to ride’. Some guys have got confidence now; some guys have won races.
“Kittel’s getting good. If that team rides, they’re going with the sole goal of a bunch sprints, so they’re going to ride for the sprint. Obviously Lotto have got confidence in Greipel.
“There are going to be more teams to control the race now during the days. Apart from that, I think we’re in exactly the same boat,” he said.
Cavendish became a father on April 3 with the birth of his daughter, Delilah Grace. He said fatherhood had provided a new reason for motivation and focus. He joked that after rooming with teammate Bernie Eisel, he could sleep through anything.
Cavendish said he had felt for the first time this season that teams were consistently riding against him , and said he took press reports of his demise on occasions where he had failed to win as a complement.
“I can win nine out of 10, but if I lose one, then I’m losing it, and the guy who’s won one out of 10 is making it. Well, they’ve lost nine out of 10,” he said.
Cavendish will race for the first time next week with teammate Bradley Wiggins at the Tour of Romandie, and will ride for stage wins at next month’s Giro d’Italia.