Mark Cavendish targets 2012 Tour de France and Olympic success

Tour de France

  • Venue: Starts in Liege; three days in Belgium before 20 days in France, including two rest days
  • Date: Sat 30 June to Sun 22 July

Coverage: Live text commentary and reports on each stage on BBC Sport website, plus 5 live commentary

Britain's Mark Cavendish is aiming for double success this summer by helping team-mate Bradley Wiggins to win the Tour de France before claiming Olympic gold for himself in London.

Cavendish, 27, has won 20 stages in the Tour and last year claimed the green jersey - awarded to the rider with the most points, traditionally a sprinter.

But he has altered his training this year to cope with the dual challenge of the Tour, followed a week later by the Olympic men's road race.

Mark Cavendish timeline

  • 1985: Born in Douglas, Isle of Man, 21 May
  • 2005: Won first Track World Champs gold in Los Angeles in madison (with Rob Hayles)
  • 2006: Won Commonwealth Games gold in men's 20km scratch race
  • 2007: Equalled Alessandro Petacchi's record 11 wins in a professional debut season
  • 2008: Earned first four of his 20 Tour de France stage wins
  • 2009: Became first British rider to wear Maglia Rosa leader's jersey at Giro d'Italia
  • 2009: Won the Milan-San Remo Classic
  • 2010: Became second British rider to win stage in all three Grand Tours (Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, Vuelta a Espana)
  • 2010: Won the Vuelta a Espana points classification
  • 2011: Became first British rider to win Tour de France points classification
  • 2011: Became second rider to win Tour de France final stage three years running
  • 2011: Became Britain's first male world road race champion for 46 years
  • 2012: Won Ster ZLM Toer - his first GC win

He will go into the Tour, which starts in Belgium on Saturday, 4kg lighter than in previous years. As a result, the reigning world champion has given up some of his famous finishing speed, in return for greater endurance.

"I'm exactly where I want to be with my body shape and weight and my power," Cavendish told BBC Sport.

"I was always famed for how fast I was in the sprint. I'm not quite that fast anymore but I can get to a lot more finishes than I could in the past.

"We wanted to sustain how I'm going right now a week beyond the Tour de France. I can't afford to be in Paris on my hands and knees."

As a result of this change of approach, Cavendish is less likely to be so dominant in the big, bunch sprints on the Tour's flat stages, but more likely to feature at the end of bumpier or more technical days.

There are three key reasons for the change: the more pointy profile of this year's Tour; the need to stay fresh for a similar course in London; and the simple fact that Team Sky has a loftier goal in mind than the green jersey Cavendish so memorably won in Paris last year - the overall winner's yellow jersey.

"I always had a team dedicated to me but now we're going with the biggest realistic opportunity to win the yellow jersey, so that means a team based around going well in the mountains and supporting a GC [general classification] ambition," he added. "There is probably going to be fewer wins and they might be a bit different if there are any.

"It's a reality, a British rider is favourite to win the Tour de France. We have to embrace it."

Evidence his new approach is working came 10 days ago as Cavendish won the Ster ZLM Toer in the Netherlands - his first general classification victory.

Most Tour de France stage wins

  • 34: Eddy Merckx (Belgium)
  • 28: Bernard Hinault (France)
  • 25: Andre Leducq (France)
  • 22: Lance Armstrong (US)
  • 22: Andre Derrigade (France)
  • 20: Mark Cavendish (GB)
  • 20: Nicolas Frantz (Luxembourg)

With most of the rest of Team Sky's nine riders working for Wiggins' benefit on the Tour, Cavendish will be left to fend for himself in those frenetic finishes more often than he was used to with his old team, HTC.

But the Isle of Man-born star has done this before, most memorably at last year's World Championships , where Team GB's superb collective effort almost came unstuck at the end only for Cavendish to latch on to a rival's wheel and power past him to the line.

This could well be the template for success in this year's Tour, as Cavendish admits he is not in the right shape or team to deliver the kind of victories he did for HTC during the last four editions of cycling's toughest event.

Cavendish says a more scientific approach to training - something he has been dismissive of in the past - has left him in the shape of his life.

"I always raged against it [sports science] but, working with the guys at Team Sky, I realise it was never the methods that I didn't like, just the way they were put to me. They were always put to me as though the person telling me knew better than I did.

"Now I can see how things can be measured and how I can work and do specific things to change how my body works, and see an increase and improvement in how I'm doing."