Mark Cavendish aiming for green at Tour

Manxman wants to see Paris in 2009

British rider Mark Cavendish wants to make amends for his premature exit from last year's Tour de France by claiming the green sprint jersey in Paris next month.

Cavendish, 24, pulled out of the 2008 Tour after the 14th stage following four stage wins because of a combination of fatigue and his desire to concentrate on the Beijing Olympics.

But he regrets that decision and wants to become only the second British cyclist to win a jersey in the Tour de France following the 'King of the Mountains' title won by Scot Robert Millar in 1984.

"I want to reach Paris this year. It is as simple as that. A big regret in my career is leaving the Tour last year," Cavendish said. "In hindsight I should have finished. If I reach Paris and win as many sprints as possible I'll be happy. Who knows? The green jersey might come because of that. That's going to be my goal.

"To win one stage of the Tour is a life-changing moment. To win four I couldn't have dreamed of it. At the time it was massive but now I have to get the green jersey. I have to keep setting new targets."

Although Cavendish had second thoughts about his early Tour de France depature, he makes no apologies for dropping out of events such as the Giro d'Italia last month after winning three stages.

"I'm not on a holiday. I'm a professional cyclist. My job is to win sprints," he said. "If the last bunched sprint was in the second week and you have a green jersey to contend for you carry on. But if you have nothing left to achieve what sense is there to do it?

"I wanted to finish the Giro d'Italia for my own pride but in terms of what I, my sponsors and my team achieved there was no point. It would only hinder everything else."

In preparation for the upcoming Tour de France, Cavendish used his week off after Italy to clock up 700 kilometres in training, many of them in hills to emulate the final showdown of this year's Tour which will take place on the slopes of Le Mont Ventoux - the last of four summit finishes on the penultimate day.

Cavendish said: "I feel stronger. I'm no longer struggling on the mountains. Okay, I'm never going to win a mountain stage. But I've had a winter of complete dedication to the roads. I came out lighter, leaner, fitter.

"Ventoux is going to create a spectacle, something which might change the whole outcome of the race. It can knock riders out. I've got to make sure I can get over that."

© 2009 AFP

Read the latest Procycling blog to get the inside scoop from Cavendish and his new book, Boy Racer, coming out June 4.

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