Mark Cavendish is relishing the prospect of wearing the Tour de France's famous yellow jersey for the first time. The opening stage of this year's tour, in Corsica on Saturday, is likely to finish with a sprint. So, for the first time since 1966, a sprinter could well be the first to wear the leader's jersey. Cavendish has done so at the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a Espana but never at the Tour.
"There's a chance for me to wear the yellow jersey," said Cavendish last night. "And for all the other sprinters it's a first opportunity for a sprinter to wear the yellow jersey since the 1960s. So it's going to be all guns blazing there. It's going to be exciting and hopefully I can wear that jersey.
"I wore the leader's jersey at the Giro d'Italia but I haven't worn the yellow jersey and I'd like to do that. But there is a strong group of sprinters this year, so it's definitely not going to be easy, especially at this stage of the tour."
The fact that the opening stage, starting in Porto Vecchio and ending in Bastia, is a relatively flat 213km (132 miles) course gives Cavendish a decent chance of success – unlike the time-trial prologues of most recent Tours. The Manxman, speaking last night in central London, admitted that his preparation had been geared towards that goal.
"History has showed that normally it takes me a few days to get into the Tour – not at the Giro this year but before that; it normally takes me a few days. But I've altered my training to go well on the first stage here and that's a big, big goal," he said.
This will be Cavendish's first tour with his new team Omega Pharma-Quick Step, which he feels is more conducive to his winning stages than with Team Sky was last year, though he won three then. He won the points classification at this year's Giro d'Italia, taking five stages, including the first, which briefly gave him the Giro leader's pink jersey.
"The team is motivated, the team is built around stage wins," Cavendish said. "So we'll go for it. But we'll show the Tour de France the respect it deserves; nothing is a given. It won't be easy. It's the highlight of the majority of riders' seasons – the majority of riders' careers – so we'll see what happens."
Though he is thrilled about the start of this year's Tour, Cavendish said he was looking forward to the more familiar start of the 2014 race. "Corsica, it's a bit of a pain to get to. But it will be worth it when we start on Saturday," he said. "Next year it's starting in Yorkshire – that will be incredible. That's going to be a massive thing for me there, the first-stage sprint in Harrogate, my mum's home town."
The new British champion would not be drawn, though, on the overall contest for 2013 Tour winner. "I couldn't give a toss about the others going for the yellow jersey," Cavendish joked. "The easier they go, the better it is for me. I've just got 21 days, seven opportunities for sprints, and hopefully win as many of them as I can."
* Britain's Brian Cookson has pledged to establish an independent body to manage anti-doping if he is elected president of the International Cycling Union (UCI). Cookson, president of British Cycling since 1996, also promised that an investigation into allegations the UCI helped cover up doping would be completed within the first six months of his presidency. "The most important challenge for the next president is to address the way cycling deals with doping," the 62-year-old said in Paris yesterday.