LONDON – Mark Cavendish expects to be less dominant when he defends his green jersey as the Tour de France's best sprinter after changing his training regimen and losing weight as part of preparations for the London Olympics.
The Briton, who joined Team Sky last season from the defunct HTC outfit, said he has lost four kilograms following his new team's scientific approach to training.
Cavendish knows he won't get the support at the June 30 to July 22 Tour that he used to receive when riding in a team built to fulfill his ambitions, not with Team Sky rider Bradley Wiggins looking to become the first Briton to wear the yellow jersey down the Champs Elysees.
"I will win stages but I may not win five," Cavendish said, referring to his 2011 total. "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).
"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. 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."
Cavendish had a great season last year, winning the green jersey for the first time to total 20 Tour stage wins before becoming road world champion. He won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award, had lunch with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace and says he is slowly getting used to being recognized in public.
Cavendish is convinced the Olympic road race will not end in 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.
Many riders expect the race to be won or lost on Box Hill. Cavendish, who has worked on improving his climbing abilities this season, is one of them.
"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. Hmmmm. And nine times, yes, it's a climb!"
Nicknamed the "Manx Missile" and the bookmakers' favorite to win gold at the London Games, Cavendish captured the first stage-race victory of his career -- the Ster ZLM Toer in the Netherlands last week -- by staying with the leaders on the hilly routes.
"It was a benchmark in my career," Cavendish said. "I knew it was possible to do. It is absolutely important."
Although he acknowledges the road race has never been a pinnacle of the Olympics, Cavendish is looking forward to competing in front of his home fans.
"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, it 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.
"If I thought I'd be in better condition for the Olympics (by missing the Tour), I would. I am doing both for different reasons. The Tour de France is my job. I have to do it, I want to do it."