Tour de France 2014: Mark Cavendish relaxed and ready to pop round to mum’s in yellow jersey...

Sprinter ready to renew his rivalry with Germany’s Marcel Kittel

leeds

Barring a Tour de France start in his native Isle of Man, Mark Cavendish’s bid to regain his crown as the fastest sprinter in the world could hardly be on more friendly territory on Saturday, the opening stage finishing in his mother’s hometown of Harrogate.

As if there was not enough at stake with a British start to the Tour, Cavendish’s 26th Tour stage win would also net him his first ever yellow jersey and also go a long way to re-establish his position at the pinnacle of world-class sprinting, which he lost, in last year’s Tour at least, to Germany’s Marcel Kittel.

Today, at a press conference, Cavendish seemed remarkably at ease. Only a later tweet, in which he claimed to have had to answer the same question in six different ways, perhaps indicated he is feeling a little irritable as Saturday and the stage at the centre of his season loom ever larger.

“It’s incredible, for the second time in my career, I’ve got a chance to race the Tour de France here in the United Kingdom,” Cavendish said, “though of course we’d like to be successful throughout the whole three weeks.

“The support for the Tour here is absolutely tremendous, people don’t realise just how big this is going to be.”

Cavendish sidestepped the question about his rivalry with Kittel by saying that his team’s aim is “to win multiple stages again”. Last year Cavendish took two Tour stage wins – a hugely impressive achievement for most riders, and only disappointing in comparison to the Briton’s own high levels of success, with a minimum of four  stages each year since 2008.

Probably the biggest difference for him in the Tour build-up has been not taking part in the Giro d’Italia for the first time since 2010. He claimed the change has worked, despite being ill at last week’s National Championships.

“I feel in good condition for this Tour, I came through the Tour de Suisse [his last build-up race] fine, although a lot of guys got sick.”

There is also, pre-Tour, a lot for Cavendish to be satisfied about this year. “I’ve got nine wins this season, whilst the team has got close to 50,” he pointed out.

If Cavendish’s nonchalance surprised in some quarters, in his Omega Pharma-Quick-Step team they were convinced his  level of ambition to keep on winning – even after 118  professional victories – remains as strong as ever.

“Is Cav hungry to win? Oh yes,” Wilfried Peeters, his sports director told The Independent, before warning that Saturday’s sprint will be anything but straightforward.

“It’s going to be a hard day, a very complicated last five kilometres, the guy with the most power as well as the most speed will win. Not like last year.”

Peeters is very confident about his rider’s chances, above all in terms of how he has timed his rise to Tour form. “Last year he was in great shape at the end of May when he finished the Giro,” he said. “This time, he’s been going well through the Tour de Suisse and up to now. He’s ready.”

The other big change from 2013 is that Cavendish’s back-up team is much stronger. Italian Alessandro Petacchi and Australian Mark Renshaw were sitting at opposite ends of the Leeds press conference table, but as two of the most talented lead-out men in the business they will be working closely together on Saturday to guide Cavendish into position for the bunch sprint.

Their signing for Omega Pharma-Quick-Step last winter will arguably give Cavendish a degree of support that he has never enjoyed before. But ultimately, as ever, on Saturday in Harrogate it will be up to the Briton himself to deliver the goods.

Life and Style
life
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone