Cavendish a new leaf falling from the Sky

Mark Cavendish won the Tour de France’s second stage in Tournai, Belgium, but since he has worked mainly for Team Sky leader and race leader Bradley Wiggins, carrying water for him and even taking turns in the mountains as part of the Sky train. Enlarge photo

Laurent Cipriani/Associated Press file photo

Mark Cavendish won the Tour de France’s second stage in Tournai, Belgium, but since he has worked mainly for Team Sky leader and race leader Bradley Wiggins, carrying water for him and even taking turns in the mountains as part of the Sky train.

PAU, France – The prospect of teammate Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France is helping Mark Cavendish overcome his own frustrations.

Regarded as the fastest man on a bike, the road world champion has not been as successful this year as in previous Tours. Now, he and his Sky teammates are working to help Wiggins win the yellow jersey instead of working for stage wins for Cavendish.

Wiggins is bidding to become the first British rider to capture the Tour. Cavendish, meanwhile, has been left to watch cycling’s new wonder – Peter Sagan – win three stages. The 22-year-old Slovak has a hold on the green jersey for best sprinter that Cavendish took last year.

“It’s frustrating,” Cavendish said during Tuesday’s rest day at his team hotel. “It does not mean I’m not happy with the situation we are in right now. We have the yellow jersey, the most iconic symbol in cycling.”

Cavendish knew before the Tour this year’s race would not be set up for him. He spent the first half of the season training specifically for the road race at the London Olympics, losing nine pounds to be able to tackle the nine climbs of Box Hill in Surrey on July 28.

He won the Tour’s second stage in Tournai, Belgium, and since has worked mainly for Wiggins, carrying water for him and even taking turns in the mountains as part of the Sky train.

“A team is like a machine. It’s built, and you need to find the most efficient way to win a bike race,” Cavendish said. “In the past I was always the last person, the one who crossed the line.”

“Now, I’m just a bit more further up in the chain of events. Brad is the thing, and at the end of the day we are doing our job and raising the profile of cycling in our country and making history,” he said.

Sky manager Dave Brailsford said Cavendish would get more opportunities to win stages with a team dedicated to him, but he’s confident the ace sprinter is not getting discouraged.

“He knew what the situation was coming into it,” Brailsford said. “He’s a very strong team player. I think he’ll still get opportunities, and we’ll try to take those.”

Cavendish has won 21 Tour de France stages and is just one short of the mark set by Lance Armstrong and the race’s top career sprinter, Andre Darrigade.

“I’ve actually beaten (Darrigade’s) record in sprint wins,” Cavendish said. “He only won 15 sprints, but he has won 22 Tour stages. That would be great to do that in Paris.”

Cavendish won the final Tour stage on the Champs-Élysées the last three years. With no hopes of retaining his green jersey, his remaining goal will be to make it four in a row.

“It would be nice to get 22 in Paris and to finish that off at the Tour with the yellow jersey,” Cavendish said.

Wiggins has been full of praise for Cavendish so far. The two riders are said to be good friends and often refer to each other as brothers. Wiggins, who is expected to commit himself to Cavendish during the Olympic road race, said the whole Sky team will try to repay Cavendish.

“Mark’s unbeaten in Paris the last few years,” Wiggins said. “So we’ll commit 100 percent.”