Flatter Tour de France suits Mark Cavendish dual aim

Mark Cavendish says a flatter 2012 Tour de France route, which was revealed in Paris on Tuesday, could help his dual aim of Tour success and Olympic gold.

He will look to defend his in the three-week Tour, ending on 22 July, then take part in the Olympic road race on 28 July.

"The course we've seen is a lot better to do that," he said of the double.

"I can probably get through [the Tour] a lot better than I could with 25-odd hors categorie [toughest] mountains."

World road champion Cavendish, who will ride for Team Sky next year, told BBC Sport: "It's going to be a long July - three weeks of the Tour then I've got to keep it going for one more week for the Olympics.

"I'll have to be as fresh as I can at the start of July and see what happens."

The first three days of the 3,479km Tour will be in Belgium, beginning with a 6.1km prologue in Liege on Saturday, 30 June, before it heads into France.

Nine of the 20 stages are designated as flat, which would be beneficial for Cavendish, who won five stages on the 2011 Tour to take his career total to 20.

But Cavendish refused to set targets, saying: "I just try and win as much as I can. If I don't win one then I'll have failed in my job so I'll look at one and see what happens after that."

As always, it will be the mountain stages and individual time trials that will play the biggest roles in deciding the overall Tour winner.

There are five mountain stages in 2012, with two summit finishes, and three time trials - the prologue, a 38km ride on stage nine and the penultimate, potentially decisive, flat 52km stage to Chartres.

Britain's Bradley Wiggins could benefit from the inclusion of an extra time trial, the discipline in which he last month.

Team Sky face a tough task to juggle setting up stage wins for Cavendish and helping Wiggins ride for the overall general classification (GC).

Asked if it is possible, Cavendish replied: "Absolutely. The biggest decision in joining the team was if they could do that, and they can so we'll try it."

Australia's Cadel Evans, the defending champion, also said he was happy with the route for 2012.

When asked whether it suited him, Evans said: "I think so, you need a good team there for the GC but we have that.

"I think the second half is favourable towards me."

Luxembourg's Andy Schleck, who in 2011 finished second for the third consecutive year after failing to follow up some superb riding in the Alps with a decent time trial performance, has conceded the 2012 Tour will not play to his strengths, but says he is focusing on the mountains.

"There are still 25 mountain passes to negotiate, and there were 23 this year," he pointed out.

"Ideally I would like to see another mountain top finish and one less time trial but I have to take things as they are and keep on working on my time trial."

Race director Christophe Prudhomme said: "There are new climbs featuring very steep parts with very high gradients.

"It should make for a thrilling race. Those who want to attack a long way from the finish will be able to do so."

One of the new climbs, to the top of the Planche des Belles Filles on stage seven, is a 5.9km climb at an average gradient of 8.5%.

However, Prudhomme added: "Once the roads are completely finished, we will add a final 270m with some 60m at 20.2%."

The Col du Grand Colombier, one of France's toughest ascents, makes its Tour debut on stage 10 - it is 17.4km long at an average gradient of 7.1%, with parts over 12%.

Another new climb will be the Mur de Peguere, with gradients reaching 18%, a rarity in Tour de France history.

2012 Tour de France route

30 June - Prologue: Liege, 6.1km

1 July - Stage 1: Liege - Seraing 198km

2 July - Stage 2: Vise - Tournai 207km

3 July - Stage 3: Orchies - Boulogne-sur-Mer 197km

4 July - Stage 4: Abbeville - Rouen 214km

5 July - Stage 5: Rouen - St Quentin 197km

6 July - Stage 6: Epernay - Metz 210km

7 July - Stage 7: Tomblaine - La Planche des Belles Filles 199km

8 July - Stage 8: Belfort - Porrentruy 154km

9 July - Stage 9: Arc-et-Senans - Besancon (time trial) 38km

10 July - Rest day in Macon

11 July - Stage 10: Macon - Bellegarde-sur-Valserine 194km

12 July - Stage 11: Albertville - La Toussuire/Les Sybelles 140km

13 July - Stage 12: St Jean de Maurienne - Annonay 220km

14 July - Stage 13: St Paul Trois Chateaux - Le Cap d'Agde 215km

15 July - Stage 14: Limoux - Foix 192km

16 July - Stage 15: Samatan - Pau 160km

17 July - Rest day in Pau

18 July - Stage 16: Pau - Bagnères de Luchon 197km

19 July - Stage 17: Bagnères de Luchon - Peyragudes 144km

20 July - Stage 18: Blagnac - Brive la Gaillarde 215km

21 July - Stage 19: Bonneval - Chartres (time trial) 52km

22 July - Stage 20: Rambouillet - Paris Champs-Élysées 130km

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