Tour de France: Depart will be grander than London, claims Mark Cavendish

Omega Pharma-Quick Step Cycling Team's Mark Cavendish (right) and the rest of the team during the team presentation at The Leeds Arena
Omega Pharma-Quick Step Cycling Team's Mark Cavendish (right) and the rest of the team during the team presentation at The Leeds Arena
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The wait is almost over. On Saturday, one of the biggest sporting events to have ever been staged in Yorkshire finally sets off, with the hype surrounding the Tour de France reaching fever pitch.

The arduous race, which will see competitors ride 2,276 energy-sapping miles over the course of three weeks, leaves Leeds and heads for Harrogate before making its way from York to here in Sheffield on Sunday, where there has been a lot of talk amongst riders about the daunting, imposing Jenkin Road, which comes as they head towards the end of stage two.

Team Sky's Chris Froome during a press conference in Leeds

Team Sky's Chris Froome during a press conference in Leeds

The Yorkshire stages have been praised by teams and organisers for their challenge and the jaw-dropping scenery that surround them and it appears as though the county as a whole has embraced the two-wheeled gallic invasion.

But it was a Brit, albeit with Yorkshire roots, who hailed the northern exposure, as Mark Cavendish backed this year’s Tour to surpass that which left from London in 2007.

“The support that, not just Yorkshire, but the whole of the UK, has for this Grand Depart is phenomenal.

“It’s like something I’ve never seen,” said Cavendish, whose mother hails from Harrogate. “People who rode the Tour de France when it started in London in 2007 still talk about it.

Omega Pharma-Quick Step Cycling Team's Mark Cavendish during the team presentation at The Leeds Arena, Leeds

Omega Pharma-Quick Step Cycling Team's Mark Cavendish during the team presentation at The Leeds Arena, Leeds

“I think Yorkshire’s going to out-do that.”

Cavendish attempted to play down his chances of winning a stage on something of a homecoming, saying: “It would be nice to wear the yellow jersey.

“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.”

He added: “One win in a rider’s career can make their career, let alone one win per year.

Team Sky lead by Chris Froome (right).

Team Sky lead by Chris Froome (right).

“I’d like to come here and win as much as possible.”

Though British cycling has been riding high for a number of years now, there has been some disappointment that just four riders from these shores with take part in this Tour.

Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Orica-GreenEDGE’s Simon Yates and the Team Sky pairing of 2013 champion Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas make up the quartet and the Manxman admits he would have liked to have seen more, particularly Sir Bradley Wiggins, left out by Team Sky and David Millar of Garmin-Sharp.

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

World Tour team Cannondale's Peter Sagan

World Tour team Cannondale's Peter Sagan

“Bradley (Wiggins), David (Millar) and these guys, grand tour stage winners from our country.

“(But) with Chris Froome as defending champion, he’s going to start his defence in Yorkshire and it’s going to be incredible for the race.”

Froome goes into the Tour with a weight of expectation resting on his shoulders having conquered the event last year.

That, arguably, hasn’t been helped by Team Sky chief Sir Dave Brailsford’s decision not to select the hugely popular Wiggins.

However, while Froome admits there is pressure on him, the 29 year-old is welcoming the challenge.

“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.

“Given the structure of the Tour this year and the diversity of all the different challenges, it’s not possible to say this guy’s going to win.

“I will say I’m going to give it absolutely everything, (but) it’s not going to be a walk in the park.”