LISIEUX, France (Reuters) - With a victory finally under his belt in this year's race, Mark Cavendish has eased the pressure that was weighing on his shoulders and will bid for a 17th Tour de France stage win on day six later on Thursday.
The Briton, who silenced his critics with an impressive sprint win on the fifth stage at Cap Frehel on Wednesday, will be the man to beat at the end of a 226.5-km effort from Dinan to Lisieux -- the longest stage this year.
"Everybody was expecting him to win when we came here. We will race all the more relaxed," his team mate Matt Goss said.
Last year, Cavendish missed out several times on a stage win before bursting into tears when he finally claimed his first of the 2010 edition. He went on to win four others.
Thursday's stage though features a short climb close to the finish that could hit the sprinter's hopes.
Should he fail to sustain the pace, his HTC-Highroad team have another option in Goss, who should not suffer on the ascent and is also a good sprinter.
"If Cavendish is not there for the sprint, we still have Matt Goss," said HTC-Highroad sports director Allan Peiper.
The big guns will try to stay safe in the peloton after a handful of them were involved in crashes on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Mark Meadows)