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Harrogate: Cavendish dreaming of yellow (1/5)


© Presse Sports

In the run-up to 4th July, will be analysing 5 key stages on the route of the 2014 edition. Of symbolic importance in the development of the race or perhaps decisive with regard to the final general individual classification, they possess the required characteristics for an exceptional sporting show. On the very first day, Mark Cavendish will have the opportunity to experience a consecrating moment in his career.


The first stage of the Tour de France is never simply anecdotal. It designates the wearer of the first Yellow Jersey, an honour which very often befalls an all-rounder, sometimes a puncher and very occasionally a sprinter. In Harrogate, everything is pointing to a straight-line specialist, most probably the strongest and most skilful of them, experiencing the privilege of slipping on the jersey that will transform them forever. Over the 190.5 kilometres to be covered, the last 60 take place on flat terrain. The day's breakaways will have very slim chances of withstanding the determination of the sprinters' teams, who promise a merciless pursuit before an explosive confrontation.


The phenomenon was already turning heads in 2007. At that time, Mark Cavendish was only a young sprinter aged 22 years, but his embryonic roll of honour which boasted a Commonwealth Games gold medal in the scratch race and which would soon count a world championship medal in the Madison, also included several potential revealing victories for his first year in the professional ranks (Escaut Grand Prix, stages on the Four Days of Dunkirk and the Tour of Catalonia). However, his apprenticeship on Le Tour, as the race set off from London, turned sour with two falls on the first two flat stages. However, it is an entirely different rider who will be taking starter's orders in Leeds.

In the meantime, his speed has demoralised the entire legion of cycling's sprinters. The era of his domination is however coming to a close at a time when he is faced with one of the major challenges of his career: winning at home, in a town where he has family links, to put on the only prestigious jersey that he has never worn. Since the announcement of the route of Le Tour, the Manx missile has only one goal: “It's great to have a chance to ride a stage at home and be in with a chance of winning! It's my mum's home town and it's designed for a sprint. I haven't yet worn the Yellow Jersey and I want to do it. It's going to be what my whole season is built around. If I had to choose one stage of the 21 in the Tour, that's got to be it”.


The symbol of the Yellow Jersey in Harrogate is twofold. In addition to the pride of taking on the position of boss in the pack on Le Tour, the small circle of sprinters see this stage as a sort of world championships in the speciality. 5th July is the day when tactics, power and luck must come together for the happy winner. Marcel Kittel made his mark on Le Tour in 2013 with 4 victories, then throughout the year, as the main man in the post-Cavendish era. Last year, he tasted the delights of life in yellow and is counting on having another taste this year. However, the colossus of the Giant-Shimano team will not be the only one to be trying to throw a spanner in the works of Cavendish's plans: André Greipel, with 7 victories to date in 2014, leads his younger countryman by one triumph. Furthermore, newcomers who are regularly showing their talents in the sprints all have legitimate ambitions to be celebrating at the end of the first stage, whether it might be winner of Milan San Remo Alexander Kristoff, Frenchmen Arnaud Démare and/or Nacer Bouhanni for, or Peter Sagan, who will not be afraid to try his luck, including on flat terrain…

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