Mark Cavendish last night attempted to play down his aspirations to claim the Tour de France yellow jersey in his mother’s home town of Harrogate tomorrow.
The 190.5-kilometre opening stage from Leeds to Harrogate could thrust Cavendish into the race leader’s maillot jaune for the first time, if he can 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, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.
Cavendish said: “It would be nice to wear the yellow jersey. I’ve not yet done that.
“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.
“[And] 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.”
Even Harrogate’s Coach and Horses pub has had a name change to Cvndsh and Horses for the Grand Depart in expectation of a ‘local’ success story.
Cavendish believes the 2014 Grand Depart will surpass London in 2007 – when he made his Tour debut – as a spectacle.
He added: “The support that not just Yorkshire, but the whole of the UK, has for this Grand Depart is phenomenal. It’s like something I’ve never seen.
“People who rode the Tour de France when it started in London in 2007 still talk about it. I think Yorkshire’s going to out-do that.”
Cavendish won, by his high standards, just two stages of last year’s Tour as Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) emerged as the premier sprinter with four wins.
Andre Greipel (Lotto-Bellisol) and Andre Demare (FDJ) have also performed well in the bunch sprints in recent seasons.
“I’m incredibly lucky to have won 25 stages of the Tour de France,” Cavendish said.
“It’s the biggest bike race in the world. One win in a rider’s career can make their career, let alone one win per year.
“I’d like to come here and win as much as possible.”