Cav all set for Tour de France

Mark Cavendish will be hoping to claim two stage victories in the opening three days of this year's Tour de France, which begins in Yorkshire on Saturday (Photo: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire)

Mark Cavendish will be hoping to claim two stage victories in the opening three days of this year's Tour de France, which begins in Yorkshire on Saturday (Photo: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire)

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Mark Cavendish is one of just four British riders named on the start list for this year’s Tour de France, which begins in earnest this weekend.

The Manx Missile joins defending champion Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas - both of Team Sky - and Simon Yates of Orica GreenEDGE in the 198-strong list expected to take to the startline in Yorkshire on Saturday.

Despite winning the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali in Italy during March and more recently being crowned British National Road Race Champion in Wales just last weekend, Peter Kennaugh has not been included in the Sky squad which will contest Le Tour.

The Manxman was one of the standout performers in the 2013 edition of the Grand Tour as he played a key role in helping Froome win the coveted yellow jersey. However, Pete’s season was recently disrupted with illness and, despite an impressive showing during the early stages of the Tour de Suisse and his success in Wales, the 25-year-old has not been selected.

A disappointed Peter commented on his exclusion: ‘I would have thought the team would have had enough faith in me from what they’ve seen in the past.

‘It was disappointing and very hard to take over the phone from Rod Ellingworth (Team Sky director), but I was just happy I was able to do what I did at the weekend.

‘It’s not like most races where you just win it and move on to the next one, whereas with this one you get to savour it for the whole year.

‘I’ll be able to wear the national champion’s jersey for the year which is a special thing.’

Also controversially missing out from the Team Sky line-up is 2012 TdF champion Bradley Wiggins who has been struggling with injury recently, as well as Onchan resident Ben Swift who finished second to Kennaugh in the national championships.

The 101st edition of the Tour de France sees the traditional Grand Depart take place in Leeds with a 190.5-kilometre stage from Leeds to Harro gate, the home town of Cav’s mother Adele. With the final 60km of the stage being flat, the stage should end with a sprint finish and thus the Manxman is favourite to emerge victorious.

Should he do so, Cavendish will don the maillot jaune for the first time in his career, therefore completing the set having worn the leaders’ jersey at both of the other Grand Tours - the Vuelta a Espana and the Giro d’Italia.

In last year’s centenary edition of Le Tour, Cav was also favourite to grab the yellow jersey in the opening stage into Bastia, however German sprinting sensation Marcel Kittel pipped him to the line to start his quest for the sprinters’ green jersey, which was eventually won by Peter Sagan.

It developed into a frustrating Tour for Cav as he ended up winning just two stages throughout the three-week race, comparatively few in relation to his sensational record in previous years, but it was still enough to take him to 25 TdF stage wins in total and up to the dizzy heights of joint third in the all-time list of victories alongside André Leducq.

And by the end of this year’s Tour, the Manx Missile could well find himself up in second place ahead of Bernard Hinault who has 28 wins to his name. The legendary Eddy Merckx leads the way on 34.

Much of Cav’s frustration last year - a sign of the incredibly high standards he sets himself - was aimed in the direction of his Omega-Pharma Quick-Step team’s leadout as, on more than one occasion, he was left to fend for himself in the sprints.

But the Belgian outfit has recruited well since, enlisting veteran Italian Alessandro Petacchi - a rider with 48 Grand Tour stage victories on his palmares - as well as Australian Mark Renshaw, Cav’s main leadout man when the two were together at HTC Highroad.

Following Harrogate, the Tour will continue with a 201km trek between York and Sheffield over terrain which should suit a puncheur rider such as Sagan. Monday will see Le Tour travel from Cambridge to London over a relatively short 155km route, returning to the British capital for the first time since the Grand Depart in 2007.

The stage will take in several major landmarks, including the Olympic Park, before ending with an expected sprint finish in front of Buckingham Palace.

Stage four sees the race return to French soil with a 163.5km ride from Le Touquet Paris-Plage to Lille which again should favour the sprinters.

The following day the Tour once again leaves France, albeit temporarily, as the race travels from the historic Belgian town of Ypres - marking 100 years since the First World War - before taking in nine cobbled sections on its way to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut which could well scupper the ambitions of more than one GC hopeful.

The sixth stage is yet another which could interest the sprinters but also the breakaway riders, before the first week concludes with a tricky stage into Nancy.

From there, the race heads into the mountains and the GC riders will take centre stage over several tough days before the first rest day on July 15. Stage 15 from Tallard to Nimes offers a brief respite for the sprinters still in the race before the Tour returns to the mountains after the second rest day.

Another sprint finish in stage 19 from Maubourguet val d\’Adour to Bergerac before the penultimate stage sees the only time trial of this year’s Tour.

With general classification and yellow jersey effectively wrapped up, the final stage of the 2014 Tour de France on Sunday, July 27 will be a traditional procession towards Paris before a likely sprint finish on the iconic Champs Elysées.

Having seen his perfect record in Paris broken by Kittel in last year’s edition, can Cav conquer his rivals once again and possibly clinch the green jersey?

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