Mark Cavendish will start the final Tour de France of his glittering career this weekend.

The Manx Missile had been widely expected to be named in the Astana Qazaqstan team for the Grand Tour as he aims to break the record for most stage wins at the event.

Cav currently sits alongside the legendary Eddy Merckx on 34 victories at Le Tour, having stormed to four wins the last time he rode in 2021. 

He was overlooked for the race last year when riding for Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl but, having confirmed he will retire at the end of this season, many expected the Manxman would be included this time around. 

And, having stormed to a memorable victory on the final stage of the Giro d’Italia last month, Cavendish has indeed made the cut. 

He forms part of Astana’s eight-man team for the race which will take to the startline at the Grand Depart in Bilbao on Saturday.

Alongside him will be Alexey Lutsenko, Cees Bol, Yevgeniy Fedorov, David De La Cruz , Gianni Moscon, Luis Leon Sanchez and Harold Tejada.

Cav’s hopes of another stage win at Le Tour have been further boosted by the news that Mark Renshaw - so often his expert lead-out man - has joined the team as a sprint and lead-out consultant for the event.

After spending a few weeks back in the island training recently, the Manxman travelled to Spain earlier this week for the official team presentation in Bilbao alongside his Astana Qazaqstan team-mates.

Le Tour gets underway on Saturday and, while the opening couple of stages are expected to mainly feature the overall general classification contenders, Monday’s stage from Amorebieta-Etxano to the French city of Bayonne offers up a possible opportunity for a bunch sprint and with it a chance for Cav to make more history.

The next day presents an even better chance for the Manx Missile in one of the four designated ‘flat’ stages at this year’s race as the peloton heads from Dax to Nogaro.

It’s a similar affair on next Friday (July 7) with a flat stage from Bordeaux, while the following day is classed as a hilly route but features a flat finish which may culminate in a bunch sprint, likewise stage 11 from Clermont-Ferrand to Moulins.

After a gruelling few days in the mountains where the GC will probably be decided, the final few stages offer up the possibility of more sprint success.

Stage 18 from Moûtiers to Bourg-en-Bresse is another flat stage suited to sprinters, while the next day is another hilly one with a flat finish. 

The Tour concludes on July 23 with the iconic stage to the  Champs-Élysées in Paris where Cav - should he still be in the race - will be hoping to rubberstamp his remarkable record, having won there a record four times during his career.Whatever happens over the next three weeks, Cavendish will rightly go down in history as the greatest sprinter in cycling, but one more win will establish him as the most successful stage winner at the biggest race in the sport - with a record that is unlikely to be broken for a long time, if ever. 

Keep up-to-fate with the Manx Missile’s progress here on or by following Isle of Man Newspapers Sports Desk on social media.