Cavendish plays down his chances of leading the way
Mark Cavendish yesterday attempted to play down the chance to claim the Tour de France's race leader's yellow jersey in his mother's home town of Harrogate tomorrow.
The 190.5-kilometre opening stage from Leeds will thrust Cavendish into the race leader's maillot jaune for the first time if he manages to claim a 26th stage victory of his distinguished career. Eddy Merckx has the record of 34 stage wins.
The 29-year-old from the Isle of Man, whose mother Adele is from the Yorkshire town, is bidding to become the seventh Briton to lead the Tour, after Tom Simpson, Chris Boardman, Sean Yates, David Millar, Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.
"It would be nice to wear the yellow jersey – I've not yet done that," admitted Cavendish. "But it's not a given. There's 200 bike riders, almost, on the start line and every one of those would like to wear the yellow jersey.
"The Tour de France is 21 days long. It doesn't begin and end in Yorkshire. We've got an incredibly strong Omega Pharma-QuickStep team and we'd like to be successful throughout the three weeks."
Cavendish secured, by his high standards, a low return of just two stages of last year's Tour as Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) emerged as the premier sprinter with four wins.
Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Arnaud Demare (FDJ) have also performed well in the bunch sprints in recent seasons and will challenge for yellow in Harrogate.
"I'm incredibly lucky to have won 25 stages of the Tour de France," Cavendish said. "One win in a rider's career can make their career, let alone one win per year."
Only four of the 198 riders who will take to the start line in Leeds are British – Cavendish, Froome Geraint Thomas (both Team Sky) and Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE), with Nicolas Roche flying the Irish flag. Wiggins was not selected by Team Sky and Garmin-Sharp did not select Millar.