He sat down, smiled at his boss Patrick Lefevere, nodded to teammate Julian Alaphilippe, then looked at Kasper Asgreen who was engrossed in what looked like a piece of cotton in his hand, spinning him around. between his fingers.Cavendish looked at the laptop in front of him, pointing to more than 50 reporters waiting to hear what he had to say.
He can be cranky, reluctant to divulge even the most basic information, but this Tour de France has seen the best in Cavendish.
Winning, yes – its four stages producing a wave of emotion and congratulations – but also in its personality. He is happy to speak and he is more of a philosopher than ever.
“Before this Tour, it was the least stressed I’ve ever been on the Tour de France because I didn’t know I was coming,” he reminded the press.
“For the past two months, I knew I had a two month break ahead, but I figured I might as well prepare myself as if I came to the Tour in case I was needed and eventually I would. was.
“I don’t train for gran fondos: I train to do a job. I went to run them and get stronger in the sprints. It came well and because there is no pressure, I was able to continue my training. “
His four wins on this year’s Tour pushed him to level 34 stage wins with Eddy Merckx. He is asked how each victory in his career ranks: not in terms of emotion or context, but in terms of actual performance.
“They were all different,” he says. “There have been cases where I had an absolutely exemplary outing as planned and others where we had to improvise the outing and do it.
“The last one in Carcassonne was an absolute classic for the last 60 kilometers of the race. I always had guys in front of me. That’s what made me tear my legs at the end. I had to finish it.
“How do I classify them?” You can’t accumulate victories in the Tour de France, but what is certain is that I would not have done it without these guys behind me. And that’s for sure. “
The should be grateful. His teammates Deceuninck – Quick-Step were huge. But, despite everything, he is so keen on emphasizing what it means to him.
“I have by far the most powerful starter train in the world,” he says. You cannot disagree.
The following stages see the race facing multiple climbs in the Pyrenees. Cavendish struggled on the last few mountain stages but was almost able to buy some time.
It seems the only way for him not to win a second green jersey is to finish a day too late.
It must be a concern. “I’m nervous every day with the time limit. There is nothing we can do about it, ”he explains.
“But I think we have to get through it as best we can. I don’t like to anticipate how the stages will unfold, but the most difficult ones have definitely passed us.
“There’s this misconception that the gruppetto goes up laughing and joking with each other, but it’s relentless.
“I’m so lucky to have the guys who stay with me. It has become more scientific and now you can plan how much power you can hold on to weight, how much energy you can use each part of the stage and ride without yourself.
“But you still have to be there all day. It is probably the most difficult Tour de France I have ever done. Hope it should be okay. “
Provided he gets over the mountains, stages 19 and 21 offer him the chance to overtake the Merckx number and be a standalone record holder.
“Everyone wants to leave a mark on the world at some point, but at the same time, it has to be a good mark that inspires people, you know,” Cavendish says. “It should give people hope and joy.
“Winning again is the same ambition I had to win 13 years ago. Every opportunity for a sprint I want to win. That’s why I’m here to try to perform. “
He was asked if he really believed he would be sitting here two weeks later with four stage wins and a convincing lead in the points standings.
He uses his boss to add weight to his answers. “If I wasn’t able to win stages in the Tour de France, I wouldn’t be here. That’s right, boss, isn’t it? “
Relaxed. Cavendish sets out in search of history.