Cav and Pete go head-to-head

Team Sky's Peter Kennaugh during the British Cycling National Road Championships in Lincolnshire (Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire)

Team Sky's Peter Kennaugh during the British Cycling National Road Championships in Lincolnshire (Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire)

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One of the most intriguing and certainly highest-profile stories in Manx sport will come to a head (indeed a head-to-head) over the next three weeks, writes John Watterson.

Mark Cavendish and Peter Kennaugh, both Members of the British Empire (MBEs) and former Isle of Man Sportsman of the Year, ride for two rival teams in the biggest and longest sporting event in the world.

The 2015 Tour de France gets underway with a nine-mile individual time trial around Utrecht in the Netherlands on Saturday.

Ahead of each rider is a mammoth total distance of 3,360 kilometres (2,087 miles)over 21 stages.

Both Cavendish and Kennaugh have enjoyed considerable success in the event. Cav has stacked up a total of no fewer than 25 stages wins since he first rode in 2006.

It places him third overall in the list of all-time winners behind Tour legends Eddy Merckx of Belgium on 34 and Bernard Hinault of France on 28.

The next most successful rider in this year’s event is Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara on seven, showing just how successful the 30-year-old Manxman has been.

He is currently on imperious form and, after last year’s bitter disappointment when he crashed out on the opening stage in his mum’s home town of Harrogate, his hopes are high to add to his tally of stage wins.

The first two road stages, Sunday’s 166km run from Utrecht to Zélande and a similar run between Anvers and Huy could get the Manx Missile off to a flying start and get him to within on stage win of Hinault.

The Etixx-Quick Step sprinter’s green jersey bid is aided by the fact that last year’s most prolific stage winner, Marcel Kittel, will be absent because of an apparent lack of form.

After a few days training in the Isle of Man last week, Cav rode bravely in Sunday’s British Championship Road Race when Peter Kennaugh just got the better of him on the infamous Michaelgate cobbled clinb in Lincoln to retain the title.

That win sealed Peter’s place in the Team Sky line-up and hopefully put to bed his own dark memories of this time last year when he also won the British champion’s vest but was sensationally left out of Sky’s line-up for the Tour.

‘I still don’t know to this day why I was not included in the Tour team last year,’ said Pete in an excellent post-race interview in Lincoln five days ago, a few hours before his name was confirmed for this year’s TdF.

Whereas Cav is likely to make the headlines for his own achievements in crossing the line first in bunch sprints, ‘little Pete’ will again be playing a support role for Sky team leader Chris Froome.

Kennaugh was indeed a star in his own right two years ago in his only other appearance in Le Tour when he worked like a trojan for his team and Froome in particular, a combined effort that saw Froome take the overall win and Sky’s second in successive years.

While Kennaugh and Cavendish are likely to have the odd chat in the peloton, it is highly unlikely that they will play out another amazing toe-to-toe finish as they did in memorable fashion last weekend in Lincoln, but they could well be Britain’s star performers in a high number of 10 GB riders in this year’s edition.

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