Cav targeting dream start to battle with Jedi

Mark Cavendish, centre, celebrates his national road race triumph
Mark Cavendish, centre, celebrates his national road race triumph

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The pressure is on Mark Cavendish as the Tour de France begins in Corsica this afternoon.

It is rare the three-week race begins with a sprint stage.

But this year it does and that gives Cav the opportunity to add to his long list of achievements in the sport.

He has never worn the yellow jersey – or maillot jaune – which denotes the race leader.

It is one of very few dreams he has yet to realise in the sport.

But after sealing the British title – and red, white and blue colours – in Scotland last weekend, his confidence has been given a timely boost.

And going into the biggest race of them all, that could be crucial.

I’m great friends with Cav – we have been close ever since we began riding on the track together in 2005.

Often athletes have doubts before big events.

I would go into an Olympics, Commonwealths or worlds thinking I have not done the work.

You don’t really know until the day.

Cav is no different. He was having a little bit of a wobble in the week leading up to the national championships, so it was great for him to win.

And on a tough circuit as well, it just shows how well he is going.

That has given him a big boost, so hopefully he will take that morale into the Tour.

He is usually really good in the second and third week of the big stage races.

It was a big surprise, actually, when he won the first stage in the Giro d’Italia last month on his way to the points victory.

Admittedly the level was not as high as it is going to be over the next three weeks.

But with the chance of yellow, there is a bit more pressure on today’s first stage of the Tour.

That is crucial for him – if he misses out in this first stage that is his chance of wearing yellow gone.

It is just something for him to actually wear it.

He obviously has no ambitions of riding into Paris with it on Sunday, July 21 – that is not his thing, it’s green for him.

And that is going to be a really, really tough battle this year.

It will most likely be between him and Peter Sagan, while Andre Griepel will obviously play a part.

We call Sagan the Jedi because he is pretty special.

He is there or thereabouts in the big sprint days and then will battle it out in smaller finishes when the sprinters have struggled on the climbs.

He is so young, as well – so when he matures he will be something else.

He is a top lad apparently, dead nutty, but a classy bike rider.

The way he can pop one-handed wheelies over the finishing line just shows his bike handling skills are exceptional.

He is going to be very dangerous and Cav’s battle to win green, like he did in 2011, is going to be tough.

Let’s hope he can get off to a dream start today.