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Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome feel the pressure


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All eyes are on Mark Cavendish ahead of stage 1 for two reasons: with twenty-five wins, he's the record holder of Tour de France stage victories among the contemporary pro cyclists and he's the local hero as the race will finish in Harrogate where his mother Adele hails from. But he looks at the Tour beyond the inaugural stage just like Chris Froome and Team Sky who ride as defending champions on home soil. They could feel the pressure as they were introduced to almost 12.000 fans in the Leeds Arena on Thursday evening.

“It's incredible that for the second time in my career, the Tour de France starts in the UK”, said Cavendish in his pre-race press conference in Leeds. “This is the biggest race in the world. I'm ready for an exciting challenge. I remember coming here in Yorkshire many summers to see my grand-parents. My uncle still lives in Harrogate. It's nice to return where I came when I was young. It would be an honor to get the yellow jersey on Saturday but there'll twenty days to go after that stage. The Tour starts in Yorkshire but doesn't finish in Yorkshire.”
His lead out train looks extremely qualified on paper with the likes of Mark Renshaw and Alessandro Petacchi. “Omega Pharma-Quick Step has built an incredibly strong team”, Cavendish noted. “We're here with quite a formidable line-up, not only for sprinting but also for GC, for the time trial with Tony Martin who is the world champion. We've been super successful this whole season and we want to be successful again during the next three weeks. I feel in good condition. The support we get here in the UK for the Tour is phenomenal. When I came to recce the stages, I could feel the vibe. People who know about bike races and people who don't know about bike races are concerned. I can anticipate how big it'll be over the week-end.”
Born and raised in Kenya, Chris Froome doesn't have the same kind of personal history in Yorkshire but he carries the flag for Great-Britain and Team Sky. “There's definitely an increased pressure being the defending champion and racing on home soil but it's all positive energy that I feel”, said the winner of the hundredth edition of the Tour de France. “Life definitely changes after winning the Tour de France. Alberto Contador has showed that he's in a much more competitive situation than last year. But there are lots of main rivals that we'll be looking at. We're up for it. We've geared our training towards the Tour de France with mostly the same group of guys going for altitude camps in Mount Teide. I've had issues to deal with since the beginning of the season: pain in my lower back, chest infection, crash at the Dauphiné… But last week has been very good and I'm here in a similar kind of form as I was one year ago.”
Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford refuted the idea of racing as defending champions. “We're not here to defend anything”, he said. “It's another challenge. Every year it's a different race, with time trials or not, with cobbles or not, with different mountains… We're ready for the fight. We'll give our best shot and what will be will be.”

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Will the three stages in the Vosges determine the overall winner?

  • Yes, they’ll confirm Nibali’s domination9.61%
  • No, the real fight will happen in the Alps47.68%
  • No, Contador will win the Tour in the Pyrenees30.74%
  • No, Porte will beat them all in the time trial11.97%
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