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By SAMUEL PETREQUIN,
Updated June 19, 2012
LONDON (AP) Mark Cavendish will race for a second consecutive Tour de France green jersey but expects to be less dominant in the sprints next month after changing his training regimen and losing weight for the Olympics.
Cavendish, a winner of 20 Tour de France stages, is convinced the Olympic road race will not end with a massive bunch sprint. The route features the Box Hill climb, which the peloton will tackle nine times on July 28, less than one week after the Tour ends on the Champs Elysees.
Many riders expect the race to be won or lost on Box Hill. Cavendish, who put the emphasis on improving his climbing abilities this season, agrees.
"If Box Hill was in the Tour de France, it would not even be categorized," Cavendish said Tuesday at the Nolan Partners Sport Industry Breakfast Club. "So one time of Box Hill, it's not categorized. Four times, yes, you're starting to feel the hill. Six-seven, hummm. And nine times, yes, it's a climb!"
Cavendish, a bookmakers' favorite for the gold medal in London, says he's no longer the pure sprinter but hopes his improved endurance will help him to succeed on home soil. The "Manx Missile" seems ready to delight his London fans after claiming the first stage-race victory of his career, the Ster ZLM Toer, in the Netherlands last week, where he was able to stay with the best on hilly routes.
"It was a benchmark in my career," Cavendish said of the win. "I knew it was possible to do. It is absolutely important."
To make sure he will be able to stay up front during the nine climbs of Box Hill, Cavendish, who joined Team Sky last season from the now defunct HTC outfit, changed his approach in training.
"I've lost four kilos," Cavendish said about the scientific approach to training by his new team.
Although he admits the road race has never been a pinnacle at the Olympics, the BBC Sports personality of the year says competing in front of his home crowd will be exciting.
"In cycling, the Olympics does not rank highly, it is not a prestigious event, but as a Great Britain athlete to compete for the flag I was born under, is a big thing," he said. "It brings extra motivation. That is why I am changing (my training). I will not be as successful in the Tour de France as I have been in the past."
Cavendish will compete with teammate Bradley Wiggins, whose goal is to become the first Briton to bring the yellow jersey to the Champs Elysees. He'll not get the support of riding in a team built to fulfill his sole ambitions.
"I will win stages, but I may not win five. My sprint has suffered a little bit but the guys who are sprinters like I was won't be there in the finish (of the Olympics)," he said.
Cavendish enjoyed spectacular results last season, winning his first best sprinter's green jersey on the Tour before claiming the world champion title. He then went on to eat lunch with the Queen at Buckingham Palace and says he is now recognized by people on the street.
He doesn't seemed fazed by the pressure of competing at home.
"I am so much faster than the others anyway, I can afford to lose a few percent in the sprint in order to be able to get to the line," he said. "It is worth it this one year, especially when the team is concentrating on the GC (general classification). It is worth doing that for the Olympics."
Despite his assertion that he will struggle to win the green jersey this year, Cavendish is convinced his decision to compete in the Tour was the best one to take regarding the Olympics. Some other prominent cycling figures like Tom Boonen of Belgium have decided to skip the race to fine-tune their preparations for London.
"If I thought I'd be in better condition for the Olympics (by missing the Tour de France) I would," Cavendish said. "I am doing both for different reasons. The Tour de France is my job. I have to do it, I want to do it."