Cavendish plays down jersey dream

Hampshire Chronicle: Mark Cavendish is bidding to become the seventh Briton to lead the Tour de France Mark Cavendish is bidding to become the seventh Briton to lead the Tour de France

Mark Cavendish on Thursday attempted to play down his aspirations to claim the Tour de France yellow jersey in his mother's home town of Harrogate on Saturday.

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.

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 and to come here and be successful...

"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."

Cavendish is one of four British riders to take to the start line - alongside Froome, Geraint Thomas (both Team Sky) and Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) - and he had hoped there would be more, pointing to 2012 winner Sir Bradley Wiggins and Millar, in particular.

Wiggins was not selected by Team Sky and Garmin-Sharp did not pick Millar.

"In an ideal world I'd have liked to have seen more Brits at this Tour de France," he said.

"Bradley (Wiggins), David (Millar) and these guys, grand tour stage winners from our country."

Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford opened his squad's media conference with a welcome to the UK.

The former British Cycling performance director established Team Sky in 2010 and expressed his pride at the journey from their stated aims, which have been fulfilled, including winning the Tour with a British rider within five years.

"The eve of the Tour de France is always an exciting moment but for us this year it's exceptionally exciting starting in Yorkshire," Brailsford said.

"We may only have four riders in the race but I think it's notable that two different British riders won this race in the last two years."

Team Sky's aim is a third successive victory, with Froome again standing on the top step of the Paris podium on July 27.

"We're ready for the fight, can't wait for it to get going and we'll give it our best shot," Brailsford said.

Froome feels different to 12 months ago, now he is defending the title.

"There definitely is an increased pressure element coming back as defending champion, given we're starting on home soil, we've got huge crowds," he said.

"(But) I think it's all very warm, positive energy.

"Given the structure of the Tour this year and the diversity of all the different challenges, it's not possible to say this guy's going to win.

"I will say I'm going to give it absolutely everything, (but) it's not going to be a walk in the park."

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