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Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) in action at the Tour de San Luis.
Manxman chases first ever yellow jersey in Harrogate
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) has highlighted the opening stage of the Tour de France as the centrepiece of his season, acknowledging that the flat finish in Harrogate provides him with a golden opportunity to wear the yellow jersey for the first time.
The 2014 Tour begins in Britain for the second time in Cavendish’s career – he made his Grande Boucle debut when the race began in London in 2007 – and he has highlighted July 5 as a red letter day.
“I want to win wherever I race, the team's invested a lot in me. But if there's one race that I can win in 2014, then that would be it,” Cavendish told The Independent.
“[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.”
Cavendish has won the points classifications in each of the three Grand Tours, and also worn the leader’s jerseys at both the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, as well as the rainbow jersey of world champion. The only prestigious garment still missing from his wardrobe is the yellow jersey itself.
"It's my mum's home town, it's designed for a sprint, I haven't yet worn the maillot jaune and I want to do it,” he said. “If I'm going well that day, I'll go well in the whole Tour."
The Giro d’Italia’s Irish start means that the race comes even closer than the Tour to Cavendish’s Isle of Man home, but he will not make a decision on his participation in the corsa rosa until later in the spring. “I don't know yet whether I'm doing it, first I'll see what my form is like in a couple of months, but [the start] is on very similar terrain and similar weather to the Isle of Man," he said.
One certainty on Cavendish’s 2014 race programme, however, is the Commonwealth Games road race in Glasgow immediately after the Tour. The race takes place on the same circuit where Cavendish claimed the British title last summer, and he will race on the Isle of Man team that also includes Sky’s Peter Kennaugh and former Rás winner Andrew Roche.
"I'm super-motivated for that, too," Cavendish told The Independent. “It's on the course where I won the British National Championships in 2013, and the Isle of Man has an incredibly strong team.”
The change in the Milan-San Remo parcours means that Cavendish is no longer targeting the race, and he also said that he was unlikely to try and add Gent-Wevelgem to his palmarès. “I'd have to base my entire season around trying to win that now they've changed the route," said Cavendish, who is currently racing at the Tour de San Luis.
In the longer term, Cavendish harbours ambitions of landing an Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, although it remains to be seen whether he will line up on the track or the road in Brazil. The road parcours is yet to be finalised, while Cavendish acknowledged the difficulties of marrying the qualification process on the track to his road obligations at Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
“The road depends very much on the course they choose. There's a flat option and a hilly one, we'll see which they finally go for,” he said.
"But the UCI have put in this qualification system that makes it pretty much impossible for road riders going to the track, even though a trackie or a mountain biker can start the road race."