Cavendish won three stages at the Tour of Britain last year and many have predicted a head-to-head battle between him and Marcel Kittel in the sprints. However, Cavendish, who crashed out of the Tour de France on stage one this year, only recently returned to racing and is aware that he has not yet hit top form.
"I'm fresh enough but I just haven't got the really high quality racing miles in my legs this season. That's the plain truth,” he told the race website.
“After opting to miss the Giro, crashing out of the Tour on day one and not recovering sufficiently for the Vuelta I have ridden just one day on the Grand Tours this season, you just can't ever replicate that racing and the fitness it gives you.”
Cavendish returned to racing at the Tour du Poitou-Charentes et de la Vienne, where he won two stages. The Tour of Britain has grown in recent years and once again boasts a stellar field with WorldTour teams sending competitive squads to the eight-day race. There are opportunities for the sprinters and Cavendish said that he will be racing flat out, but he acknowledged that his race programme was dealt a blow with his Tour de France abandonment.
"You never say never and I will be flat out but realistically you have to say that I am not in my best condition after the last few months I've had,” he said.
“I'm racing this week because this is my national Tour, Britain's big race, and I always want to support it when I can. I have nothing but good memories of the Tour of Britain and it's always a treat racing on home soil in front of big British crowds. I'm just going to enjoy myself and see what the week brings."
Cavendish skipped this year’s Giro d’Italia, instead racing the Tour of California. His crash at the Tour after just one day of racing and his subsequent decision not to rush back for the Vuelta leaves the former world champion without a grand tour – or stage win – in his legs for the first time since 2007.
"It's felt a bit odd. This has been the first season since I was a neo-pro that I haven't started at least two Grand Tours and it's the first year since I was a neo-pro that I haven't won a Grand Tour stage. It has left quite a hole. You forget how much they dominate your season one way or another.
"But I haven't been that frustrated or pacing around. It's life, it's certainly the life of a bike racer and you just need to deal with it. Riders have crashes all the time and some of them are pretty serious. I've had plenty myself and have almost always bounced straight back up but not in Harrogate I didn't. I've been pretty lucky but this time it was my turn to suffer.”