PORTO VECCHIO, France (VN) — Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) relishes his chance to add another trophy to his cupboard on Saturday in Corsica. For the first time in nearly 40 years, the first stage of the Tour de France should end in a sprint finish.
“The yellow jersey is not just one of the most iconic symbols in cycling, it’s one of the most iconic symbols in the world of sport,” Cavendish said today to a packed press conference.
“To be able to wear that for a day in your life, it’s a thing to make any rider’s career. It’s a thing you dream about as a child. It’d be a beautiful thing.”
Cavendish won his first British road race title last weekend, adding the national champion’s jersey to his cupboard. In addition, he won the road race at the 2011 world championships, the points jerseys in all three grand tours, and has already worn the leader’s jersey in the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España.
The yellow jersey would be a special addition if he is to triumph in the likely sprint to Bastia on Saturday in Corsica’s northeast.
“I won’t be wearing it in Paris, but I’d be wearing it,” Cavendish added. “It’s technically not like wining the world championships jersey, but I’m lucky enough to win [many other jerseys]. I’m just missing the yellow jersey.”
Philippe Gilbert and Alejandro Valverde took the most recent road stages that opened the Tour de France, but those featured kicks in the final and did not really suit sprinters.
After years of prologues and opening time trials, the last sprint stage was back in 1966. A sprinter, German Rudi Altig, won it but he broke clear to claim victory. You have to go back to 1965, 38 years ago, to find the last sprinter to win the opening day of the Tour de France.
Rik Van Looy won the morning leg and defended the yellow jersey in the afternoon’s time trial. The next day, he lost it.
Cavendish said that first “it’s an honor” to debut in his British national champion’s jersey. “I’m patriotic,” he added. “I’m proud to wear the colors of my country. I want to do the jersey proud, and it starts with the first race on Saturday.”
Yellow is on his mind, however. He has a unique chance to do what has not been done since Belgium’s Van Loy.
“For sure the fact that it’s the yellow, it’s special,” he said. “It’s a jersey that I haven’t won yet, but coming to the Tour, whether it’s the yellow or not, it’s a stage that we have to be motivated for, you can’t put any more pressure on yourself.”
Like Van Loy, Cavendish sees his time in the jersey short lived.
“A pure sprinter could maybe lose it on the second stage,” Cavendish added. “It’s possible we could see a reduced field on the second day but still a bunch of sprinters there. It’s possible the yellow jersey could win the second day. The third day definitely suits a puncheur-style rider.”