/ Cycling

Mark Cavendish aiming for Yorkshire yellow as Tour gets set for take-off

Updated: Friday, 04 Jul 2014 07:51 | Comments

Mark Cavendish and his team-mates are greeted by supporters as they ride through Millennium Square in Leeds ahead of the start of the Tour
Mark Cavendish and his team-mates are greeted by supporters as they ride through Millennium Square in Leeds ahead of the start of the Tour

Mark Cavendish has tried to downplay the chances of his taking the yellow jersey when the Tour de France takes off in Yorkshire on Saturday, but admitted wearing the maillot jaune “would be nice”.

The 190.5km 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.

Becoming the seventh Briton to lead the Tour - following Tom Simpson, Chris Boardman, Sean Yates, David Millar, Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome - is clearly Cavendish's season goal, but he insisted his focus was on a successful Tour as a whole for his Omega Pharma-QuickStep team.

"It would be nice to wear the yellow jersey,” Cavendish said. “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."

"From a personal point of view it kept me awake at night, that's for sure" - Team Sky's Dave Brailsford on omitting Bradley Wiggins

It was a response he repeated to similar questions over his designs for yellow.

Cavendish lauded Yorkshire's welcome to the Tour, but expressed disappointment that just four of the 198 riders that will take to the start line in Leeds on Saturday are British - Cavendish, Froome, Geraint Thomas (both Team Sky) and Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE).

Cavendish had hoped there would be more, pointing to 2012 winner Wiggins and Millar, in particular.

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

"Great Britain has been successful the last years in world cycling. I think that's a massive part of why the Tour de France has come to the UK again."

Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford admitted not selecting Wiggins, the Tour's first British winner in 2012, was a "horrible" decision to have to make.

The 34-year-old four-time Olympic champion has had previous disagreements with Chris Froome, the 2013 winner and Team Sky's leader again this year and despite pledging his support was omitted from the race by Brailsford, who in his former role as British Cycling performance director has worked with Wiggins for more than 10 years.

Brailsford told BBC Sport: "From a performance point of view, from a professional point of view it's straightforward, but from a personal point of view it kept me awake at night, that's for sure.

"From an emotional point of view, it was horrible. [But] you take all the emotion out of it and you look at the logic and you figure out what it's going to take to win."

Like Cavendish, Froome is expected to claim yellow, with victory in Paris on 27 July his target.

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

"[But] I think it's all very warm, positive energy.

"I'm going to give it absolutely everything, [but] it's not going to be a walk in the park."

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