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BOULOGNE-SUR-MER, France – As reigning Tour de France champion, Cadel Evans should be staying well clear of the fast men of the peloton when they unleash their high-octane drives for the finish line.
But that doesn't mean the 2011 yellow jersey champion can't enjoy looking up the road to see just who has the measure of British sprint king Mark Cavendish – as long as they stay upright and avoid bringing down the peloton.
Cavendish, the winner of 20 stages prior to this year's 99th edition, had shed four kilos to prepare his body for the demands of the climb on the Olympic road race on July 28.
But the Isle of Man rider's weight loss appears not, as some rivals hoped, to dent his power output.
On the first sprinters' stage of the race Monday, the Sky fast man prevailed without the help of a dedicated sprint 'train' to add another victory to his tally, which is now 21.
Wednesday's undulating fourth stage from Abbeville to Rouen has only one small climb prior to the finish before finishing on a home straight that should entice the sprinters.
Evans, whose big challenges in the race will come in the mountains and the two big time trials on stage nine and 19, should get another chance to watch from afar.
“I like to sit back and see who's winning from a safe position,” said the BMC team leader.
“I'm interested to see how actually Cav gets on against (Marcel) Kittel and so on. I just hope they stay upright, that's all.”
For Kittel, who has come into the race with the ultimate yet formidable aim of beating Cavendish, stage four might be too soon.
The Argos-Shimano rider has been suffering from a stomach virus since overnight Sunday, and is not likely to be fully operational until Thursday or Friday, if at all.
But there are no shortage of rivals for Cavendish, starting with Greipel and Australian Matt Goss, who finished second and third respectively Monday at Tournai in Belgium.
Goss, who is relying on lead-out men Daryl Impey and Brett Lancaster from his Orica-GreenEdge team to set him up, said: “We can definitely keep moving forward and we have the right tools to get a win.
After his narrow defeat on Monday, Greipel is also hoping for better.
“I'm disappointed at not winning, but Cav is not a slow rider,” said the German, who will be counting on his sprint 'train' to help set him up for the final few hundred metres.
“We will be sticking to the plan we've put in place and just hoping to do better.” – Sapa-AFP